Big Game from Carmelo helps Knicks Fight off Elimination, End Postseason Losing Streak
With their season on the line, the New York Knicks were able to fight off the Miami Heat and limp away with an 89-87 victory today at Madison Square Garden. Though I am glad that the Knicks were able to end their NBA record 13-game postseason losing streak and finally win a game this season against Miami, my overall enthusiasm is reserved due to the loss of another starter and the 3-1 deficit that still remains.
For what has been a one-sided series thus far, this particular game turned out to be an extremely exciting one. After the Knicks got down by nine early in the third quarter, I figured they might pack it in and get an early start on their respective summer vacations. Already thin at the point guard position, the Knicks were forced to rotate between Mike Bibby and J.R. Smith bringing it up after Baron Davis dislocated his right kneecap in a rather horrific manner. To their credit they fought back, getting huge games from Carmelo Anthony (41 points) and the returning Amare Stoudemire (20 points and 10 boards).
Miami typically turns up the intensity a few notches in the fourth quarter of games (i.e. Game 3 of this series), and I was fully expecting to see LeBron and Wade blow the Knicks doors off and end the season of their buddy ‘Melo in decisive fashion. New York held tough though, maintaining a gritty defensive effort throughout and making just enough shots on offense to survive. The final stretch of Bibby making a big three, LeBron answering from long range to tie the game up, and then ‘Melo draining another three to give his team a 87-84 lead was unbelievable. It still got hairy at the end due to some missed free throws by ‘Melo and Amare, but when Wade’s game winning jumper fell short the Garden erupted.
As exemplified in the dramatic turn of the Bulls-Sixers series due to the injuries of Derek Rose and Joakim Noah, a key to any team making a serious playoff push is having a relatively healthy roster. For the second postseason in a row injuries have been a killer for the Knicks - last season it was Chauncey Billups and Amare coming up lame, this year it’s been Jeremy Lin, Iman Shumpert, and now Baron going down (not to mention Amare’s self-induced fire extinguisher incident, causing him to miss Game 3). It is quickly turning into a battle of attrition for the Knicks, and unless Lin’s status changes we are likely to see a heavy dose of Bibby in Game 5 Wednesday night in Miami.
I have been steadfast in my disdain for the Heat since LeBron and Bosh joined up with Wade a little over two years ago, and seeing them go down to the Mavs in last year’s playoffs was akin to my team winning the title. But as much I can’t stand LeBron, it’s virtually impossible to ignore just how physically dominating he can be at times (along with Wade to a lesser degree) and how difficult it will be for any team to beat them four times in seven games this postseason. The Knicks didn’t do much in the grand scheme by winning today, but at the very least they are making Miami play another playoff game. Who knows, maybe they bang the Heat around some, possibly tire them out a little for the teams they will play in the later rounds.
What would it take for the Knicks to win on Wednesday and bring the series back to MSG? How about another superhuman effort from ‘Melo, Amare and Chandler dominating the paint and staying out of foul trouble, and some below average play from two out of Miami’s big 3. Throw in the Knicks shooting close to 50% from the field, roughly 35-40% from three point range, and Mike Bibby transforming back into the Sacramento Kings 2002 Western Conference Finals version of Mike Bibby (thanks to Doc Brown’s time machine) and we’d be onto something. Highly plausible right? Probably not, but for one day at least it felt great to be a Knicks fan.