It’s amazing how quickly things can change. Just two games ago, the Knicks had a chance to take over sole possession of the 8th seed in the East. Instead, the Hawks spent the night blowing out the Cavaliers while the Knicks lost a heartbreaker to the Wizards.
Sunday, on national television, the Heat drove a second stake through their heart, blowing out the Knicks 102-91. It was just one more loss in a disappointing season, but it felt like the end. While the Knicks remain alive, their magic number is getting smaller and smaller.
What is setting in right at this moment is why the playoffs meant so much to me and the rest of New York. This year, the Knicks are facing a season in which the Denver Nuggets will be using their first round draft pick while the Knicks wait for Amar’e Stoudemire’s contract to expire after next season. There isn’t much to look forward to in the next calendar year and the playoffs would have been the spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.
I wanted the playoffs. I wanted them just to help ease the pain of what will be a long offseason. Even if the Knicks were bounced in the first round, it would have made heading into a hopeless offseason easier to swallow. You could say things like: “At least they made the playoffs.” Or “Look how resilient the team was making the playoffs after being so many games back!” Instead, we’re going to head into the summer without any draft picks, without a playoff berth and with a whole lot of rebuilding ahead.
Call me naive, but making the playoffs was important to me this year. The team let me down and even though there is still a glimmer of hope, the fun of this season was sucked out of my veins sometime over the weekend.
Need to Know: LeBron James scored 38 points, Mario Chalmers added 15 and the Miami Heat survived a 3-point barrage from New York’s J.R. Smith on the way to dealing the Knicks’ playoff hopes a big blow with a 102-91 victory on Sunday.
Smith made a Knicks-record 10 3-pointers, on an NBA-record 22 attempts, and finished with 32 points.
Raymond Felton scored 14 for New York and Carmelo Anthony managed only 13, on 4 for 17 shooting.
Anthony had two points after halftime, while James had 22.
Amare Stoudemire scored 12 and Tyson Chandler finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds for New York.
Game Ball: J.R. Smith, who was heaving up 3-pointers left and right, helping keep the Knicks in the game.
What’s Next: The Knicks play at the Raptors on Tuesday, a 7 p.m. game.
There were so many things that stung about last night. It started with the Atlanta Hawks blowing out the Cleveland Cavaliers. As timelines go, we found out that the Hawks had secured the victory just a few minutes before the Knicks started their abysmal tumble towards the nine seed.
The way last nights game ended was indicative of the season. They lost the way they’ve lost the entire season. By playing sloppy with the game on the line. That last few minutes was horrifying to watch and shows the lack of structure in the Mike Woodson system.
While most coaches would have a play drawn up with 12 seconds left on the clock, Woodson relied on what he’s done all season. Clear out and give the ball to Carmelo Anthony. The trouble with this was that the message was not clear.
Raymond Felton dribbled the ball for a few minutes before Anthony basically stole the ball around mid court. This is the product of a system void of discipline. The Knicks had thrived throughout the night running the pick and roll and using J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to breakdown defenses. Yet, with the game on the line, Anthony held the ball and hoisted up a less than smooth looking shot.
What more should we have expected?
Woodson doesn’t run through a system. He runs through a player. Even with the ailing shoulder, Anthony took control and there was no one to stop him. You can look to Smith missing a wide open Amare Stoudemire under the basket as the big miss but Anthony’s play in the moments before that were truly hard to watch.
This could be the beginning of the end for the Knicks playoff chances and what a way to go.
Carmelo Anthony looked out of sorts on Friday night, committing an uncharacteristic nine turnovers in a 90-89 loss to the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden.
The reason for him not looking right became clearer in the postgame locker room.
The Knicks announced Anthony has a strained right shoulder. X-rays taken after he scored just 10 points to go along with eight rebounds, five assists and four steals were negative. He is expected to play on Sunday when the Knicks travel to the Miami Heat.
Anthony revealed postgame that the injury first occurred on Wednesday during the Knicks’ 110-81 home win over the Nets. On Friday night, the problems lingered, but it did not stop him from playing 38 minutes.
“Throughout the game, there was no strength,” Anthony said. “Hopefully, I’ll be alright.”
“Well, I knew it was bothering him, but you know, we gotta have Melo on the floor,” Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said. “I tried to give him a break, but I played him through the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter. I tried to give him a little breather.”
Anthony admitted that with 1:02 left in the first half, he called a timeout because the shoulder gave out on him momentarily.
There is little doubt that Anthony will do everything in his power to play in these final five games as the Knicks fight for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. They trail the Atlanta Hawks by a game for that eighth spot, but are two back in the loss column and are unlikely to possess the tiebreaker. After the Heat, the Knicks are off until Friday when they travel to the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors.
“There was no way I was coming out, not under these circumstances,” Anthony said. “Not in this dog fight we are in.”
Anthony injured his left shoulder late in the 2012-13 regular season. There were lingering effects, but he played in all 12 of the Knicks’ playoff games. It was later revealed he had a partially torn labrum, for which he opted for rehabilitation instead of surgery.
The Knicks failed to score on their final possession and fell to the Wizards, 90-89, on Friday night.
J.R. Smith missed a 3-point shot with two seconds remaining in the game after Carmelo Anthony lost control of the ball. He led the Knicks, scoring 32 points. He was 12 of 23 from the field and 8 for 16 from beyond the 3-point line.
Anthony scored just 10 points. He had nine turnovers.
The Knicks continue their race to the finish in hopes of securing the eight seed in the Eastern Conference tonight against the Washington Wizards. If you’re interested in scoreboard watching in Atlanta tonight, the Hawks will be facing the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 7:30pm tip.
Things are about to get really interesting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Wednesday night, the Knicks pulled even with the Hawks for the 8th seed but their records still look very different. The Knicks have played two more games than the Hawks. That gap will be made up next week.
On Sunday, the Knicks face the Heat for the fourth time this season, with Miami having taken two of the three meetings. After that game, the Knicks will have four days off, playing again on April 11 against the Toronto Raptors. They face the Raptors five days later to close the regular season.
On Sunday, the Hawks take on the Pacers. While the Knicks take most of the rest of that week off, the Hawks will makeup the two games, catching the Knicks in games played by Friday. During that week, the Hawks face the Pistons and Celtics before a matchup against the Nets in Brooklyn on April 11.
Next Friday will feature two games played on the east coast. The games will be played 347 miles apart and feature four different teams. Three of those teams will be in the playoffs while one sits on the outside looking in. By that night, we will likely have a firm grasp on who holds the advantage in representing the 8th seed in the eastern conference playoffs. It’s been a crazy season and it’s hard to believe that one week from tonight we might find the Knicks in control of their own destiny.