NEW YORK -- If NBA games lasted 45 minutes, the Knicks, and J.R. Smith, would've had a night to remember against the Thunder.
Unfortunately for New York, Thursday's game went the full 48. And things fell apart in the final three minutes.
"We just didn’t make a shot. It boils down to that," Amar'e Stoudemire said. "We played great defensively. We made the stops that we needed. We just didn’t follow through."
Hard to argue with that.
The Knicks led by one point with 2:58 to play on a Raymond Felton layup but did not convert a field goal for the rest of the game. They went scoreless in the final 1:50 (0-for-2 FG, 1 TO) and Smith, as brilliant as he was all night, missed his final two shots -- the second of which was a turnaround 17-footer with two seconds to play and the Knicks down one.
Just like many Knicks fans watching the game on TV, Mike Woodson was left scratching his head when Smith settled for a jump shot instead of attacking the rim.
Said Woodson: "He could have ripped through it and went to the rim. But he didn’t and settled for the jump shot."
Smith said Woodson did not instruct him to drive on the final play. But he beat himself up for not taking it to the basket.
"The turnaround jumper is a tough shot in that situation. I really should have taken a page out of LeBron’s book yesterday and just tried to go to the basket," Smith said. "But my jumper was pretty much good all night."
Smith's jumper was better than good.
The Knicks' sixth man scored a season-high 36 points on 14-for-29 shooting in 36 minutes, taking over as the No. 1 option on offense with Carmelo Anthony sidelined due to a sore right knee.
Thursday was Smith's first 30-point game as a Knick and his first 30-point game in the NBA since March 12, 2011 as a member of the Denver Nuggets.
It looked as if the Knicks were going to get blown out without Anthony early on. They trailed by nine after the first, but then Smith caught fire.
He had 18 of the Knicks' 30 points in the second quarter to pull the Knicks to within six at the half.
Smith poured in another 13 points in the third to give New York a six-point lead heading into the fourth. He went 5-for-6 in the quarter and hit 3 of 4 3s, including one with two seconds to play that drove the Garden crowd to delirium.
"A great performance by him, a great performance by the team," Felton said. "I feel like we showed a lot of fight out there."
Playing the second night of a back-to-back against one of the top teams in the NBA, with their leading scorer out, the Knicks showed plenty of fight. But they were doomed by sloppy execution down the stretch.
The final three minutes included a bad turnover by Felton -- his fourth of the night.
Incredibly, the Knicks also attempted just one shot within 17 feet of the rim. They missed 14 of 18 shots in the fourth quarter.
"Guys get a little tired playing [the second game of] a back to back, but at the same time you've still got to execute," Felton said.
That's something the Knicks failed to do in the final minutes.
Woodson left himself open to criticism by not going to Stoudemire on the Knicks' final two plays. Instead, the coach left the game in Smith's hands.
"It was a well-drawn play," Stoudemire said. "We got what we wanted, but we just missed the shot."
And they missed an opportunity to make a statement on Thursday night.