The Knicks would have hoisted up another brick that resulted in another loss, mounting the odds in their favor for the 2015 NBA Draft lottery.
The results will ultimately be revealed on May 19, as New York awaits its latest franchise savoir, but the team was rescued Saturday night by Tim Hardaway Jr.
The need for a franchise player was never more evident than during the teams’ struggles in Orlando.
For the game, the team converted just 37.8 percent as the two teams set an NBA record for fewest points in a quarter, combining for just 15 during the second quarter.
Despite the futile offensive efforts, New York carried an 11 point lead into the fourth quarter and even after squandering the advantage, still had an opportunity to claim just its 16th victory of the season.
Both teams scrambled for the loose ball, but the Knicks recovered. Only five seconds remained on the shot clock, so once Hardaway Jr. gained possession, he had to quickly launch a shot.
A crossover dribble and a move to the left generated enough space for Hardaway Jr. to get a clean look at the rim.
The ball ripped through the net, giving New York an 80-77 advantage with 12 seconds remaining.
Orlando still had an opportunity to force overtime, but Victor Oladipo missed an open 3-pointer from the corner.
Nikola Vucevic scored on a put-back layup but the Knicks were able to dribble out the clock to clinch an 80-77 victory, improving their record to 16-64.
“A win is a win, no matter how you get them,” Hardaway Jr. said. “It’s just about making shots and that’s what I do. When the time came, I just had to knock down the shot, and that’s what happened.”
The victory coupled with Golden State’s 110-101 win over Minnesota has the Knicks and Timberwolves tied for the worst record in the NBA.
If the two teams have identical records at the conclusion of the regular season, then a coin flip will determine which team would have the greater odds for next month’s NBA Draft lottery.
One team would have a 22.5 percent chance of earning the right to select first overall, while the other team would have a 22.4 percent chance.
If the teams finish with different records, the team with the worst record in the league has a 25 percent chance of winning and is guaranteed a Top-4 selection.
The team with the second worst record would have a 19.9 percent chance of claiming the top pick and is guaranteed a Top-5 pick.
Once Hardaway Jr.’s shot fell through, he may have inadvertently added a hurdle to New York’s massive rebuilding efforts.
If the Knicks lost, they would have a game advantage with just two remaining to clinch the best odds of securing the top pick in June’s draft.
The thought of purposely throwing the game away against the Magic never crossed the minds of anyone within the organization.
“I don’t believe in trying to lose and I don’t think that’s what our organization believes in,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. “We can’t control the way the ping pong ball will drop.”
The obvious plan for New York next season is to have Carmelo Anthony make a healthy return, add a promising prospect (likely Duke’s Jahlil Okafor or Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns) and then add some talent thorough free agency.
The Knicks have to wait until June 25th to add a player through the draft and then until July 1 to pursue free agents.
Standing in the way are contests against Atlanta on Monday and the season finale against the Pistons on Wednesday.
No matter what happens in the next two games, the 64 losses the Knicks have already totaled are the most during a single season in franchise history.
Nearly every player on New York’s roster has a two game audition to try and secure a place on the team for next season, only few acknowledge the pressure.
“We just go out there and continue to have fun. This is our playoffs and we have to go out there and play hard, regardless of the score, each and every game,” Galloway said. “We have to continue to move forward and build off that.”