MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In a season full of disappointing losses, New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson liked his chances with a five-point on the road and just 2:39 to play.
The Knicks had battled back from an 18-point first-half deficit and rookie guard Tim Hardaway Jr. was carrying the team with 14 fourth-quarter points.
It was not enough.
Memphis outscored the Knicks 13-3 in the final 2:39 and grabbed a 98-93 victory on Tuesday night at FedExForum.
“We fought back,” Woodson said. “We were 18 down and kept chipping away. We couldn’t close.”
Two reasons they could not close: Memphis point guard Mike Conley, who scored 22 points, 10 of them in the fourth quarter, in his first game back from an ankle injury. And veteran Mike Miller, who had a season-high 19 points, including nine in the fourth quarter, and 5-for-7 from 3-point range for the game.
Miller’s 3-pointer with 45.9 seconds left took Memphis from two down to one ahead at 94-93. Miller said Conley “set a little wedge screen” to get him the open look.
“We had a lapse, just a defensive lapse,” Woodson said. “It was the biggest shot of the night.”
Conley had missed seven games with a sprained ankle and was just 6-for-15 from the floor but made 10-of-12 from the free-throw line.
“I was frustrated at times, missing shots I normally make,” he said. “I started getting a little rhythm (in the fourth quarter), getting to the free-throw line, making my floater.”
After trailing by 13 at the half, the Knicks outscored the Grizzlies 27-16 in the third quarter and were only down 66-64 going into the fourth quarter. A 20-11 run put the Knicks up 84-77 with 5:39 remaining.
Hardaway Jr. finished with 23 points and hit 4-of-9 3-point shots. New York forward Carmelo Anthony had a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Point guard Pablo Prigioni had 10 assists, seven points and five rebounds.
The Knicks (20-33) trailed 96-93 with 21 seconds left after two Conley free throws. Hardaway Jr. and Prigioni each missed 3-point attempts, shooting guard Courtney Lee grabbed the rebound and then hit two free throws to wrap things up for Memphis.
The Knicks missed six of their last seven shots from the field and the last four straight. One of those shots was a 3-pointer from guard J.R. Smith, who is playing with a mask because of broken bone in his face. He finished with four points on 2-for-8 shooting.
“It is terrible to play with,” Smith said of the mask. “I’m just going to have to deal with it.”
Memphis (30-23) rallied with a smaller lineup after coach Dave Joerger took out center Marc Gasol with 4:49 to play.
“They ran Tim Hardaway Jr. with some catch-and-shoots, J.R. Smith would be running one way, Carmelo Anthony was playing the four. That’s a problem,” Joerger said. “We felt like we just weren’t punishing them enough with our size on the offensive end to stay big.”
The Knicks had a 39-38 rebounding edge; Memphis won points in the paint 42-32. The Grizzlies shot 49.3 percent from the field (37-of-75).
Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph had 13 points and eight rebounds and rookie point guard Nick Calathes had 11 points and five assists off the bench. Forward Tayshaun Prince finished with 10 points and four rebounds and spent much of his 39 minutes trying to contain Anthony.
“I had five, six days off so my legs were fresher,” Prince said. “You just hope (Anthony’s) All-Star weekend was big for him.”
Conley said the victory was definitely big for the Grizzlies: “First game off the break, we come back and get a gritty win.”
As for the Knicks, who were right there, still leading by two until Miller hit the 3-pointer with 45 seconds left?
“We have to win those games,” Smith said.
NOTES: Knicks F Carmelo Anthony set an NBA record by knocking down eight 3-pointers in the NBA All-Star Game. He scored 30 points to help the East win for the first time since 2010. … A report from Yahoo.com indicated that Memphis and Minnesota are in trade talks before Thursday’s deadline and considering a deal that would have Memphis SF Tayshaun Prince and SG Tony Allen going to the Timberwolves for F Chase Budinger and G J.J. Barea. “News to me,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. … Memphis PG Mike Conley returned to the lineup after missing seven games with an ankle sprain. … The Knicks’ pregame notes package said the team was “enjoying a winning new year.” Yet before Tuesday’s game, the Knicks were 11-11 (.500) since Jan. 1. However, that was a big improvement from 9-21 through the first 32 games of the season.
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