In the aftermath of the Knicks' 119-115 loss to the Cavs on Friday night, Mike D’Antoni said his team lacked "consistency and tenacity at the end. We not make the big stops at the end to win the game."
They also didn’t have Mr. Big Shot.
Veteran point guard Chauncey Billups was out for the second straight game with a bruised left thigh. His absence was felt in the final minutes as Cleveland guards Ramon Sessions and Baron Davis made key plays down the stretch as the Knicks offense was a disjointed mess.
"Chauncey’s always our floor general. When we look for a big basket, Chauncey a guy who normally gives it to you when you least expect it," said Amare Stoudemire, whose 41-point effort was wasted by the Knicks' inept effort on defense.
The lead started to slip away when Sessions blew by Anthony Carter for a layup to knot things at 106. With the Cavs up one thanks to an Anthony Parker 3-pointer, Davis hit the shot of the night, drilling a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 10.6 seconds to play.
Sessions knocked down one of two free throws following a Stoudemire 3-pointer to put the Cavs up two. Carmelo Anthony then was whistled for an offensive foul drawn by Queens product Samardo Samuels, effectively ending any shot the Knicks to salvage a win on a disastrous night.
It's hard to quantify just how much the Knicks missed Billups on Friday.
But one way to look at it is this: The Cavs outscored the Knicks by 12 with either Sessions or Davis on the floor. They were outscored by four with Carter and Toney Douglas on the court.
Douglas, who outplayed Chris Paul in the Billups-less Knicks' win over the Hornets on Wednesday,finished with 11 points, five assists and five rebounds on Friday. Carter added eight points on a perfect shooting night in addition to delivering some message-sending fouls in the paint.
There's no way to tell how things could have been different with Billups against Cleveland, which snapped a 25-game road losing streak.
For what it's worth, the Knicks were a plus-9 with Billups on the floor in their 115-109 loss in Cleveland last Friday. He scored 20 of his 26 in a fourth-quarter rally that ultimately fell short. New York has now lost all three games to the 12-win Cavs this season and 11 straight overall to Cleveland.
Stoudemire admitted afterward that not having Billups hurt on Friday, but didn’t want to use it as an alibi for their awful execution late in Friday's game.
"We can't have any excuses. We had a chance to win. We just let it slip away," he said.