NEW YORK, United States, Mar 17 – LeBron James scored 33 points but it was not enough to prevent the Los Angeles Lakers sliding to an embarrassing 124-123 defeat to the league-worst New York Knicks on Sunday.
The Lakers, who are all but out of contention for the playoffs, blew a 122-111 lead late in the fourth quarter as the Knicks ended a run of eight consecutive defeats with an upset win at Madison Square Garden.
It marked another grim milestone in the Lakers’ rocky season, which has nosedived dramatically since the turn of the year.
The Knicks are rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference with the worst record in the NBA, with Sunday’s win seeing them improve to 14 wins against 56 defeats.
The Lakers meanwhile are stuck in 11th spot in the Western Conference with 31 wins and 39 defeats, nine wins fewer than the Los Angeles Clippers, who occupy the last remaining playoff berth.
Dejected Lakers coach Luke Walton, whose job is reportedly in peril, praised the Knicks for digging out an improbable win.
“Give the Knicks credit for staying with it,” Walton told reporters. “We didn’t do a good enough job of closing out the game. We fought hard to build a lead. We didn’t make the plays that we needed to to win the game.
“The Knicks stepped up and made some big shots and some big defensive plays.”
The first sign that the Lakers were in for a rough ride on Sunday came in a catastrophic first quarter, when they leaked an astonishing 41 points as the Knicks cut loose.
However the Lakers gradually chipped away at the Knicks’ early lead and had pulled clear late in the fourth quarter when a James jumper made it 122-111 with 3min 45sec remaining.
The Knicks, however, produced a startling late run which ended with Emmanuel Mudiay levelling the score at 123-123 with the first of two free throws before draining the second to give his team a 124-123 lead.
Mudiay led the scoring for the Knicks with 28 points while Damyean Dotson had 25 points.
Kevin Knotson had 19 points for the Knicks, one of five players in double figures.
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