Knicks endgame woes continue in Boston

The magic of the New York Knicks‘ promising start to the season is beginning to fade.

The Knicks are on a free-fall after squandering another lead and coming up short once again at crunchtime.

Marcus Smart hit the dagger—a wide-open three—with 36.4 seconds left as the Celtics came from behind and extended the Knicks’ endgame woes, 101-99, on Wednesday night at the TD Garden in Boston.

It was the Knicks’ eighth loss in 10 games decided by three points or less this season. Five of their last seven losses came down to a single possession.

New York led by seven, 80-73, with under nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. But the Celtics rallied behind Smart, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum.

After Smart’s go-ahead three-pointer, Alec Burks missed a three on the other end and got his shot blocked in the final 10 seconds that sealed the Knicks’ fate.

Smart poured in 14 of his 17 points and issued three of his nine assists in the final quarter, while Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum had seven points apiece.

Brown paced the Celtics with 32 points and 10 rebounds. Tatum added 27 and 10.

The Boston trio was too much for the Knicks, who have now lost five of their last six games to fall to eighth place in the East.

The Knicks drew a big game from RJ Barrett, who went a perfect six-for-six from beyond the arc to lead them with 29 points. But Julius Randle struggled again in the fourth despite a complete stats line of 22 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals, and one block.

After a scintillating third quarter where he exploded for 13 points and gave the Knicks a 73-70 lead, Randle disappeared in the final 12 minutes. Either his recent thigh injury is bothering him, or the big minutes are starting to wear him down. He remains defiant, saying he’s not bothered by anything every time the topic comes up.

But his recent struggles suggest otherwise as he came up with just two points in the fourth quarter on four shots.

Randle shot 9-for-23 overall. In four games this month, he’s just shooting 38.2 percent from the field and 30 from deep.

Rebounding also continued to be an issue for the Knicks as the Celtics crushed them, 53-39, and 16-5 on the offensive glass.

The tight game saw Boston scoring 20 second-chance points. It was the fourth time in the Knicks’ last five losses that they were beaten in the offensive rebounding.

“We felt one of the keys is rebounding. Obviously, that hurts us,” Tom Thibodeau offered his thoughts after another tough loss. “We had been a good rebounding team the whole year. We need to get back to it.”

It gets tougher for the Knicks to rebound from this tough stretch as the streaking Memphis Grizzlies, winners of their last four games, visit them in New York on Friday.

On the same night the Knicks lost to the Celtics, the Grizzlies wallopped the Atlanta Hawks, 131-113, with all their starters in double figures.

The Knicks’ starters all yielded negative net ratings in their loss in Boston.

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