NY Post: Knicks lose OT crusher to Lakers as playoff clinch will have to wait

From Marc Berman:

Knicks superfan Spike Lee looked up, at the Staples Center scoreboard, shaking his head, staring at the replay of Wesley Matthews’ putback.

Lee couldn’t believe it. Neither could Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau.

The Knicks’ playoff-clinching celebration will have to wait. The clincher got away — along with that one lost rebound.

In a Hollywood heartbreaker, the Knicks blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and the defending-champion Lakers showed their mettle in overtime by surviving a 101-99 battle in Tuesday night thriller in front of 3,550 fans.

The Knicks had the game and the playoffs in the bag but couldn’t hold off these Lakers, even with LeBron James watching from the bench.

And the Knicks were devastated.

“It sucks,’’ Julius Randle said. “We fought like hell. Me, I played to exhaustion. I know my guys played to exhaustion. To do what we did, last game of the road trip, against a championship-caliber team, the play was great. And for me to have an opportunity to finish the game off. I felt I had to finish the game.’’

It was fascinating to hear just how upset they all were about that missed rebound. Here’s Thibs, “Rebounding beat us tonight. All we had to do is get that last rebound — the last shot of the game. Everyone’s got to get a body on everyone. That’s the bottom line. Their rebounding hurt us throughout the game. We always say defend, rebound and keep turnovers down. If you neglect that area, you’re going to pay for it.’’

Rose noted that Thibs yelled at him about it and that he should have just fouled Matthews as soon as it was clear that Matthews has him beat for the rebound (I don’t think that would have been a good idea, though, for as soon as you realize you’re beat for the rebound, Matthews might be able to muscle his way into still putting up a close shot that could go in with the foul), adding, “It’s f–king hard right now. It just sucks, man. I’m still upset about it. There’s a lot going on.’’ Chill out, dudes, you still have opportunities to win the #4 seed! Think about it, the Sixers lost last night, too, so they’re going to have to win on Thursday to clinch the #1 seed, so if they beat the Heat and the Knicks win out, the Knicks will finish ahead of the Heat and in a tie-breaker with just the Hawks, the Knicks win the tiebreaker. It’s only if there is a three-way tie that the Knicks lose out to both teams.

The key for the Knicks is to just win these last three games, and the Celtics will almost certainly be eliminated from the #6 seed by the time the Knicks play them, so they might not even give a shit about that game. The Hornets are not a problem. It comes down to the Spurs, but knowing how this season has gone, Pop will use that game as a tinkering game, as he’s been doing lately, where he tries out weird lineups every so often, less concerned about winning games this year and more concerned about where to concentrate on next season (as the Spurs ain’t going anywhere this year, even though they can be pretty darn good at full power. They just stomped the Bucks the other day).

The other interesting thing is that Kyrie Irving might be hurt and the Bucks are pretty close to the #2 seed. So the eventual #6 seed might get a hurting Nets team instead of the Bucks. Not only that, but the fact that they are so close will likely mean that the Bucks have something to play against when they play the Heat. Remember, only the Heat own the direct tiebreaker with the Knicks. If it is a two-way tiebreaker between the Knicks and Hawks, the Knicks win it. So just win out and hope the chips fall into play.

Last night was rough, but don’t lose the forest for the trees. The Knicks are still in pretty good shape for the #4 seed. They just really need to win these last three games at home, but they should.