Carmelo Anthony was on the right wing, asking for the ball with the final seconds winding down. But J.R. Smith didn't want to force the ball to him and instead hoisted a long three-pointer.
Smith's shot was long and wide left, hitting the other side of the backboard, and the Knicks' losing streak continued. It's up to six after a 97-95 loss to the Magic Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
"I thought this was a game we could have went out there and got, kind of get that monkey off our back,'' Anthony said. "So this is a tough one to swallow. We have to bounce back from this.''
Anthony shot 10-for-17 and led the Knicks (2-7) with 27 points after spending nearly 10 minutes on the bench in the second half in foul trouble. But he was on the floor at closing time, which is when he wants the ball and tries to earn his $124-million contract.
"Of course, I want it,'' Anthony said. "Whether he could have got it to me or not, that's a different question.''
There were 3.5 seconds left when Pablo Prigioni inbounded the ball to Smith. He said he looked at Anthony, who was guarded by rookie Aaron Gordon.
Smith said he didn't think Anthony would get a good shot or a clean look, so he let it fly with Evan Fournier contesting. Smith scored 19 points, but was just 1-for-5 in the fourth, including 0-for-3 on threes.
"By the time I caught it, the clock was already on 3.5,'' Smith said, "so if I forced that into him, what kind of shot is he really going to have -- a turnaround fadeaway?'' Smith said. "It's not the best shot we want. I don't think it's enough for him to set his feet and do what he wanted to do.
"I think we went with the best shot. I think it was the right shot and I just didn't make it.''
Anthony said he would have to look at the tape to see if he was open. Derek Fisher said there were multiple options on that play and it wasn't the shot that he wanted, but he had no problem with it.
"Once the ball came in to J.R., he trusted himself,'' Fisher said. "He took the shot. We live with that. You don't draw it up for a three-point shot like that, but I have no problem with a guy believing in himself that he can help his team.''
Fournier scored 28 points to pace Orlando (3-6). Nikola Vucevic scored 20 and grabbed 13 rebounds. Dix Hills product Tobias Harris had 12 points.
Fournier missed two foul shots late, including one with 3.8 seconds left that set up Smith's shot. But the Knicks know it should not have come down to that.
The Magic, which lost a close game in Toronto Tuesday, didn't show any signs of fatigue. They also didn't meet much defensive resistance early.
So much has been made of the Knicks learning the triangle offense and getting comfortable with it, when their most troubling issues have been on the defensive end. Fisher has had his hands full trying to get them to play defense, and this game was more of the same.
Orlando had 60 points less than one minute into the third quarter and led by 10. The Knicks came back and took an 83-78 lead early in the fourth but shot 1-for-6 with two turnovers over the next 5:29.
The Knicks trailed 87-85 when Anthony left with 5:41 to play after picking up his fifth foul. They were down four when he returned two minutes later. Out of a timeout, Iman Shumpert drove baseline and threw down a reverse dunk, but Vucevic scored inside at the other end.
It was 92-87 after a Fournier free throw with 2:25 left. Anthony nailed a jumper and hit 1 of 2 from the line on the next two trips to bring the Knicks within 92-90 with 1:25 left.
They needed a stop, but former Knick Channing Frye scored over Tim Hardaway Jr. with 1:01 left. Hardaway misfired on a three, but the Knicks were still alive. A Smith putback cut it to 94-92 with 13.1 seconds left.
After two Fournier foul shots with :12.8 left, Anthony drilled a three-pointer over two defenders to bring the Knicks within 96-95 with 4.3 seconds left. But they came up short again.
"I don't want to keep saying the same thing,'' Anthony said. "But we've got to stay with it. I have to keep saying the same thing. I don't want to. Hopefully, we get a chance to turn this thing around.''