NEW YORK – A chance to gain ground in the playoff race was there, until Jarrett Jack took it away.
Now the New York Knicks have nearly 5,000 km to think about how this game — and maybe any realistic postseason hopes they had — was lost.
Jack scored a season-high 31 points Sunday night in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 106-100 victory over the Knicks, who had their eight-game winning streak snapped.
The Knicks wasted a chance to pull within two games of a playoff spot before leaving for a five-game Western Conference trip that starts Tuesday against the Lakers.
“This was a huge opportunity lost, one we can’t afford,” Knicks guard J.R. Smith said. “But we can’t get it back. We’ve just got to go on the road, win some games and try to come back home and win.”
Hours after being handed a chance to get closer to the final spot in the Eastern Conference when Atlanta blew a fourth-quarter lead in Toronto, the Knicks responded with an inept final period of their own after they led by 17 points in the first half.
They couldn’t stop Jack and couldn’t get a basket from Carmelo Anthony, who missed all five shots in the final period and finished with 32 points. New York remained three back with 12 to play.
“It’s tough. We should’ve won this game. We gave it away. They earned it, they beat us. We didn’t play well coming down the stretch or in the second half and they did,” Anthony said. “But it’s behind us now, there’s nothing we can do about that.”
Jack scored 23 in the second half after coach Mike Brown challenged his team at halftime.
“It was just about making a stand and each individual person making a stand and then collectively as a team us all bringing that same mind-set to the table,” Jack said. “That’s pretty much what it was about. I just thought guys responded.”
Suns 127, Timberwolves 120
In Minneapolis, Markieff Morris scored 25 points off the bench to lead Phoenix to its biggest comeback of the season.
The Suns trailed by 22 in the first half, but shot a season-high 57 percent from the floor to overcome Kevin Love’s 36 points and 14 rebounds. Love fell an assist short of a triple-double and committed a crucial turnover in the final minute.
Raptors 96, Hawks 86
In Toronto, Kyle Lowry scored 25 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 13 points and 13 rebounds as the Raptors beat Atlanta.
DeMar DeRozan scored 21 points, Greivis Vasquez had 12 and Terrence Ross 10 as the Raptors avoided their first three-game home losing streak since dropping games against Brooklyn, Miami and Denver between Nov. 26 and Dec. 1. Toronto fell in double-overtime to Oklahoma City on Friday and lost to Phoenix last Sunday.
Nuggets 105, Wizards 102
In Denver, Kenneth Faried had 20 points and Aaron Brooks hit four straight free throws in the final 12 seconds.
Kings 124, Bucks 107
In Sacramento, DeMarcus Cousins had 32 points and 12 rebounds and Isaiah Thomas had 30 points and eight assists in the Kings’ victory.
Nets 107, Mavericks 104 (OT)
In Dallas, Joe Johnson scored 22 points, including the tying layup in regulation and the go-ahead 3-pointer in overtime to lead Brooklyn past the Mavericks in Jason Kidd’s return to Dallas as a coach.
Lakers 103, Magic 94
In Los Angeles, Jordan Hill had a career-high 28 points along with 13 rebounds in his first start in over nine weeks and the Lakers sent Orlando to its ninth straight loss.