Stirring as last night’s 113-107 OT comeback victory over the Sixers might’ve been for the Knicks, it further served to emphasise just how much New York should want the ball in hands other than those of Jamal Crawford during crunch time. Peter Vescey wrote about Wednesday night’s inexplicable collapse against Detroit in yesterday’s NY Post.

Lenny Wilkens’ 13-year Hall of Fame playmaking career, how many times do you think his coaches entrusted the ball to someone else at the end of a contested game to create a shot?

Not once, I submit, and maybe not that often.

Obviously those coaches knew the game. Which isn’t exactly the conclusion that can be reached regarding Wilkens when you see him fail to respond effectively to last-second emergencies at the cost of victory Wednesday night.

With fans cringing in disbelief at what Wilkens was and wasn’t doing, there he was, Knicks up one with 28.5 seconds left, allowing Jamal Crawford to dribble out most of the shot clock down the stretch of the awfully preventable loss to the Pistons.

Instead of signaling for a timeout, compulsory in such situations, as any knowledgeable basketball brain can confirm, there was the idling Hall of Fame coach permitting Crawford to do what he does worst, select a reasonable shot.

Don’t dare blame the 24-year-old for hoisting up an unsavory 16-foot corner fadeaway, with Rip Hamilton’s DNA all over him, that funded Chauncey Billups’ decisive free throws.

How can we expect Crawford to do anything intelligent, much less learn anything worthwhile, when his immediate boss ” slightly more experienced and nearly 45 years older ” wasn’t smart enough to assemble a huddle (two times out in his pocket) and put the ball squarely into the hands of the Knicks’ leader Stephon Marbury?

Larry Brown only wishes his sideline competition last summer was this accommodating.

(Stephon Marbury driving past the immoveable object that is Samuel Dalembert)

Back to last night in Philly ; were it not for Jerome Williams and Trevor Ariza’s efforts off the bench in the 4th quarter, Allan Houston doesn’t have an opportunity to tie the game at the buzzer. Williams is doing a lot of dirty work on both ends and on the face of last night, it would be great to see him get more minutes.

Though this year’s Lakers are clearly not the dynasty of old, Friday’s gutty display by the Wizards in L.A. might’ve been a defining game for both teams. For Washington, having struggled to beat good teams (and snapping a 12 year losing streak in L.A.), their climb to respectability seems that much more credible. For L.A., coming up short against a perenial Eastern Conference weakling one night after their biggest win of the year in Sacramento only confirms what we’ve been seeing throughout the autumn ; they’re either outpaced or disinterested at the defensive end. The Wizards’ backcourt of Larry Hughes and Gilbert Arenas might’ve looked slightly less All-Universe had the Lakers bothered to put a body on either one of them.