It took just two days for the New York Knicks to undo all the progress they'd been trying to make for a month and a half -- and to make their task over the next four weeks even more difficult.
The Knicks will look to get back to .500 Thursday night when they are scheduled to host the New OrleansPelicans in the final game this season between the non-conference foes.
Both teams are trying to end two-game losing streaks.
The Knicks dropped their second home game in a little more than 24 hours Tuesday night. They trailed by 12 points in the second half, then rallied to take the lead before frittering away a five-point advantage in the final 3:41 of a 112-110 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Pelicans lost the middle game of a three-game road trip Monday afternoon, squandering an 18-point first-half lead in a 104-92 defeat at the hands of the Boston Celtics.
For the Knicks, the back-to-back losses -- they fell to the Charlotte Hornets 97-87 on Monday afternoon -- dropped them under the break-even mark and out of play-in positioning in the Eastern Conference. New York, which moved over .500 for the first time since mid-November by beating the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, is 22-23 and entered Wednesday a game behind the 10th-place Celtics.
Falling to the Hornets and Timberwolves -- each of whom are in a play-in position -- was a discouraging start to a pivotal stretch for the Knicks. After facing New Orleans, which entered Wednesday tied for 12th place in the Western Conference, New York is slated to play 16 of its next 18 games against teams currently within the top 10 in their respective conferences.
"That's a tough loss," said Knicks guard Evan Fournier, whose layup was blocked just before Alec Burks missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. "That's the type of game that keeps you up at night. You kind of feel (terrible) in the morning afterwards, but that's the league we're in."
Consecutive losses also came at an inopportune time for the Pelicans, who'd beaten a trio of Western Conference contenders -- the Golden State Warriors, Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers -- in a four-game span before falling to the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.
The Pelicans, who are one of just three Western Conference teams to have failed to reach at least the play-in round the past three seasons, appeared as if they might be headed for another pivotal win Monday before suffering a familiar lesson. Of New Orleans' starters Monday, only center Jonas Valanciunas is older than 26.
"We're a young team -- we'll learn from mistakes," Valanciunas said after finishing with 22 points and 14 rebounds in his 30th double-double of the season. "It's not just going to be ups. We're going to have downs, too. We've got to accept that and we've got to learn from that. It's on us how we come out for the next game."
--Field Level Media