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LOS ANGELES — Knicks superfan Spike Lee looked up, at the Staples Center scoreboard, shaking his head, staring at the replay of Wesley Matthews’ putback.
Lee couldn’t believe it. Neither could Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau.
The Knicks’ playoff-clinching celebration will have to wait. The clincher got away — along with that one lost rebound.
In a Hollywood heartbreaker, the Knicks blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and the defending-champion Lakers showed their mettle in overtime by surviving a 101-99 battle in Tuesday night thriller in front of 3,550 fans.
The Knicks had the game and the playoffs in the bag but couldn’t hold off these Lakers, even with LeBron James watching from the bench.
And the Knicks were devastated.
“It sucks,’’ Julius Randle said. “We fought like hell. Me, I played to exhaustion. I know my guys played to exhaustion. To do what we did, last game of the road trip, against a championship-caliber team, the play was great. And for me to have an opportunity to finish the game off. I felt I had to finish the game.’’
Lakers’ Talen Horton-Tucker, who went to the same Chicago high school as Derrick Rose, hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 13 seconds left in overtime to win it and keep the Knicks’ magic number to end the playoff drought at 1.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was despondent over the final seconds of regulation when Wesley Matthews’ offensive putback sent the game into overtime. Matthews took the rebound away from Derrick Rose.
A tight-lipped Thibodeau said the game was lost not on Horton-Tucker’s trey but rather the rebound in regulation.
“Rebounding beat us tonight,’’ Thibodeau said. “All we had to do is get that last rebound — the last shot of the game. Everyone’s got to get a body on everyone. That’s the bottom line. Their rebounding hurt us throughout the game. We always say defend, rebound and keep turnovers down. If you neglect that area, you’re going to pay for it.’’
Rose said Thibodeau “yelled at me about it’’ afterward. Rose said he should’ve fouled Matthews once he realized he had him boxed out.
“It’s f–king hard right now,’’ Rose said. “It just sucks, man. I’m still upset about it. There’s a lot going on.’’
With the Celtics losing to the Heat, 129-121, earlier in the evening, the Knicks took the court with a chance to clinch their first playoff berth since 2013. That historic moment has been delayed to Thursday at the Garden vs. the Spurs.
Now the Knicks have fallen to 38-31, the same record as Atlanta and Miami, but they are the No. 6 seed based on tiebreakers with three home games left.
Horton-Tucker’s 3 in which Rose was picked off by Anthony Davis put the Lakers up 2. The Knicks choked on the last possession, couldn’t get off a good shot as struggling RJ Barrett fired a 35-foot prayer at the buzzer that wasn’t close.
It spoiled Randle’s rugged evening. He punished his former team with 31 points. Rose scored 27 points off the bench and had a late steal in overtime that looked to be the clincher.
It wasn’t. Randle hit a big 3-pointer with 1:10 left to give the Knicks the lead but they couldn’t hold on. Ultimately, the Knicks couldn’t survive an awful eight-point night from Barrett (2 of 13, 0 of 7 on 3-pointers).
Randle didn’t lament Matthews’ putback because he had a chance to win it on the final possession of regulation and shouldered blame for the loss that put the Knicks at 3-3 on their six-game Western swing.
The Knicks ran a great play as Randle caught the inbounds, raced past Davis into the paint but hit the back iron on his runner in the lane at the buzzer — Davis affecting the shot from behind. Onto overtime.
“I wouldn’t call it a success,’’ Randle said of the trip. “I felt we had a chance to go 5-1. I had a chance to close it out and make it a successful trip at 4-2.”
“I put it on myself. For me to have the opportunity to finish the game off, I know my guys aren’t going to say it, it comes down to that play. I feel as a leader I’ve got to finish that game. So I’m not going to put it on nobody else. I’m going to put it on myself.’’.
The Knicks blew that 10-point fourth-quarter lead yet rallied from five down in OT. But they couldn’t close either session.
The Knicks were harassed into a 24-second violation, giving the Lakers the ball with 13.3 seconds left down two and leading to the Matthews play after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed a corner 3.
“I’m going to go get it with the game on the line,’’ Matthews crowed.
James, watching in his teal top and teal shorts like he just came off the tennis court, opted out of facing the league’s hottest club but celebrated at the buzzer with Davis, who was held to 20 points.
Andre Drummond, whom the Knicks couldn’t get to break his verbal agreement with the Lakers, added 16 points and 18 rebounds.
And among those in attendance hoping for history was Lee — the filmmaker who never abandoned the franchise during their miserable seven-year walk through the wilderness.
“We still control our destiny,’’ Randle said.