- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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Carmelo Anthony said he still has "faith" that the Knicks can make the playoffs after a 106-100 loss to Cleveland at home.
Knicks fans, though, probably were using a different word to describe how they felt after watching their team suffer what could ultimately be a crippling loss to their thinning playoff hopes.
The Knicks' eight-game winning streak is history and so may be their slim playoff hopes after dropping what simply is an inexcusable loss.
The Knicks' season had seemingly flatlined a couple of weeks ago after a seven-game losing streak, and somehow they came back and pumped new life into their playoff hopes with a winning streak that came out of nowhere.
All they had to do was beat a Cavs team that was going through the motions without Kyrie Irving at home and they would head out West to face the struggling Lakers in front of new team president Phil Jackson with a nine-game winning streak. The Knicks could practically taste a double-digit winning streak.
The Hawks (31-37) lost earlier in the day and have been trying to give the eighth spot away to the Knicks.
But New York (29-41) could not hold on to a 17-point second-quarter lead. Jarrett Jack transformed into Allen Iverson and exploded for 23 of his 31 points after halftime. Jack buried 10 of 13 shots in the second half and may have sunk the Knicks' postseason dreams in the process.
And the Knicks have nobody to blame but themselves. They defended the pick-and-roll like it was some offensive wrinkle they had never seen before. And offensively they were even harder to watch as New York self-destructed by taking predictable and challenged isolation shots. Each offensive possession was painful and the Knicks got nothing easy down the stretch as they missed 12 of 14 shots after leading 90-85 with nine minutes left.
All this against a Cavaliers team that had lost eight of its previous 10 coming in.
"It's a tough loss," Stoudemire said. "You don't want to lose a game like this, especially against a team that's not really making a push to the playoffs. They're just being spoilers right now."
The Knicks have 12 games remaining, starting with a five-game West Coast swing against the Lakers, Kings, Suns, Warriors and Jazz. Had they beaten Cleveland, the Knicks probably would have been able to drop one or two of the upcoming road games.
This loss slices into any slim margin for error they had to begin with. The Knicks may have to go 4-1 on this trip to have a chance. Atlanta's next five games are against the Suns, Wolves, Blazers, Wizards and Sixers.
Once the Knicks return from their West Coast jaunt, they play their final seven games all against Eastern Conference opponents that are in the thick of the playoff race. The Knicks face Brooklyn twice, Toronto twice, Washington, Miami and Chicago. With exception to the Heat, all those teams will likely still be jockeying for playoff positioning in April.
Sunday was likely New York's last "easy" game of the season considering its opponent and being at home, and the Knicks blew it.
Before this crushing loss, Mike Woodson tried to estimate what number the Knicks need to sneak into the postseason.
Woodson initially guessed "38 to 40" wins before altering it to "anywhere from 35 to 40 will probably be the number that gets you in."
The Hawks only need four more victories to reach 35. In order to reach 37 wins, the Knicks have to go 8-4 in their final 12.
It's a tall task but possible. I've maintained that I still can't see a Melo-led team failing to make the playoffs in this awful Eastern Conference. Something still tells me that the Hawks will keep the Knicks in the thick of it perhaps until the final week.
"I got faith that we can make a run," Anthony said.
Time is running out, though, for Melo and the Knicks. And so is the faint faith in a playoff berth after Sunday's unacceptable loss.
4hSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann