Everyone was down on the New York Knicks on Monday, from the coach to the team president to the fans especially the fans.
Fatigue seemed to catch up to the Knicks as they played horribly in their third game in three nights, getting booed repeatedly by their fans in an 80-71 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
"I've been hearing about that, and now I've got my first taste of it," Latrell Sprewell said. "But those folks pay their hard-earned money, and they've been behind us up to this point. If that's what it takes to get us going, hey, boo more."
The Knicks missed 16 of their first 17 shots in the final quarter, including airballs by Marcus Camby, Chris Childs and Charlie Ward, and lost for the third time in four games.
The fans were particularly harsh, booing the Knicks louder than they have in a long time despite the team's energy being sapped from playing seven games in nine days, including two sets of three games in three nights.
"That wouldn't happen in any other city, but hey, you get benefits from playing in New York, too," Allan Houston said. "That's New York. Every year I've been here it happens. For the new guys, it's a welcome."
Mookie Blaylock had 15 points and Steve Smith and Alan Henderson added 14 apiece for Atlanta, which has won six of its last eight games.
Atlanta held New York to 29 percent shooting, a number that kept getting lower as the Knicks tossed up brick after brick in the final 12 minutes. Ward finished 0-for-7, Childs was 1-for-5 and Camby 0-for-3.
"We played pretty good defense, but not that good," Smith said. "Everybody looks fatigued now, but the hard thing for them was that they played three games in a row, and overtime in the second one. I think that's really what put a little damper on their situation."
Patrick Ewing led New York with 23 points
Prior to the game, Madison Square Garden president David Checketts spoke to the media and said he was disappointed with the state of the team.
"I'm not happy about where we are right now, but we're going to do our best as an organization to turn it around," Checketts said.
He also spoke of disagreements within the team's hierarchy and said coach Jeff Van Gundy was never in danger of losing his job. Checketts also pointed out that the teams that kept their rosters stable unlike the Knicks were having the most success.
"I'm a long way from being panicked about it," he said.
None of the Knicks seemed to panic, either, as they watched this one start to get away from them in the third quarter.
After Ewing tied the game at 37-all with 10:50 left, Atlanta responded with a 15-5 run to open a 10-point lead. A three-point play by Henderson with 1:10 left in the quarter made it a 12-point difference.
The Knicks pulled within 66-61 on a 3-pointer by Houston with 6:43 left in the fourth, but that would be their last field goal until Ewing tipped in his own miss with 11 seconds left.
"We're a fragile team emotionally. Getting booed tonight was new to some," Van Gundy said. "With 4:11 left we were getting booed, and I didn't like the looks on our faces coming into the huddle. It was still a winnable game at that point."'
Anthony Johnson scored five points including a circus jumper as the shot clock expired to make it 75-64 with 2:13 left and Tyrone Corbin had four as Atlanta restored its double-digit lead and sent the fans streaming toward the exits with a minute left.
"We want Phil Jackson," one of them shouted as the final seconds ticked away, and the arena was so quiet by then that it wouldn't have been surprising if Van Gundy heard him.
Notes: Chris Dudley's string of nine straight made free throws ended when he missed his first two. He finished 2-for-5 at the line. ... The Knicks completed their final set of back-to-back-to-back games. ... The Hawks, one of the top defensive teams in the league, have allowed opponents to reach 100 points just twice all season. ... Camby turned 25 Monday. ... The Knicks, who embark next on a three-game Western swing, will play 14 of their final 23 games on the road. ... The hawks have won four of their last five road games.
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