The final sequence of this game was an absolute nightmare for the Knicks, who endured a major defensive breakdown on one end and a total mental lapse on the other.
With 24 seconds left and the Knicks up 101-100, the Wizards began their final offensive possession by milking the clock. John Wall ran some time off before handing the game over to Beal, who worked one-on-one against Beno Udrih on the left wing.
Beal made his first move when the clock hit roughly 10 seconds and he wouldn't need a second move. Driving easily past Udrih to his left, the second-year guard simply turned the corner, found a wide open paint and calmly laid in a right-handed lay-up as New York's help defenders stood and watched the play.
"There was absolutely nobody there," Beal told the Wall Street Journal afterwards, referring to the left baseline.
Still, that was only one-half of the Knicks' horror show.
Udrih immediately turned to his teammates, as if to ask why there wasn't help, but Carmelo Anthony then instructed him to inbound the ball. Despite having multiple unused timeouts, New York elected to play on in search of a game-winning basket of its own. Anthony casually dribbled the ball up the court, even though there were less than seven seconds remaining in the game when he got the ball.
Dodging two Wizards defenders, Anthony could only manage an off-balance, pull-up three-pointer that failed to draw iron as time expired. Washington escaped with the road victory.
"That's on me," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said afterwards, falling on the sword because New York could have called timeout but didn't.
Told of Woodson's comment, the New York Times reported that Anthony replied: "If he says it's his fault, then I guess it's his fault."
There is a school of thought that argues teams should attack, rather than call timeout, in late-game situations like the one New York faced following Beal's bucket. That philosophy is grounded in the idea that the offensive team might be able to catch the defensive team off guard in a scramble situation, and that it might be easier to generate an open look by playing in the open flow of the game rather than approaching a set defense out of a timeout. Of course, such thinking requires a team to be prepared to take advantage of the situation, which the Knicks and Anthony clearly weren't.
It's probably worth noting that New York was forced to play the game's final sequence without injured point guards Raymond Felton (hamstring) and Pablo Prigioni (toe). Would either one of them have made a difference? Who knows, but they couldn't have made it any worse.
Beal finished with 21 points (on 9-for-16 shooting) and seven rebounds. Martell Webster scored a team-high 30 points (on 9-for-13 shooting), and Wall added 20 points (on 7-for-16 shooting), eight assists and two rebounds for the Wizards.
Anthony led the Knicks with a game-high 32 points (on 12-for-20 shooting), five rebounds and three assists. J.R. Smith added 18 points (on 6-for-16 shooting), six assists and four rebounds for New York in a losing effort.