So of course there would be one more wide-open Hawk at the end, because so much of the night had featured various Knicks keeping their distance from various Hawks, treating the Hawks as if they had the flu, or worse, not wanting to get too close, avoiding their germs, just in case.

Of course the ball would bounce off Carmelo Anthony's hand in the final seconds, the seconds melting away and the Garden crowd anxiously hoping that maybe, just maybe, this would be the possession when the Knicks would choose to guard someone, anyone, anyone at all.

Ah, but even when they did, even when they forced Jeff Teague to make a bad pass — right at Melo! — Anthony could only tip it away, knock it in the general direction of Josh Smith who was absolutely, positively completely ...

"Wide open," Anthony said. "He was wide open."

So Smith lined it up, saw the Knicks' J.R. Smith somehow respond by actually backing farther away, as if the two Smiths had opposite magnetic charges and it was impossible for J.R. to get any closer to Josh. It was that kind of night, almost an ABA night missing only the red, white and blue ball, the Knicks shooting 54 percent, the Hawks shooting 60 percent, a breezy lunchtime run at the Y.

"Not my favorite kind of game," Tyson Chandler, who knows offensive defense when he sees it, said later on.

Still, the Knicks were a stop away from grinding out a win on a night when stops were as rare as ceviche. The Hawks — specifically Josh Smith — had been generous to a fault in the final moments, a backcourt violation and an offensive charge and, finally, a foul as Anthony was dashing to the basket, an old-school 3-point play that gave Anthony 42 points and the Knicks a 106-104 lead with 12.5 seconds left.

And now, time bleeding away, the ball was in the air.

"We got a good look at it," Hawks coach Larry Drew said.