It’s beginning to look a lot like… last game. Everywhere you look.
Despite leading 51-37 at the half tonight — and by nine during the 4th quarter — New York lost in heart-breaking fashion yet again, this time by a score of 96-86 to the Boston Celtics.
The Knicks did what they were supposed to do. In a game where players were colliding and bleeding all over the court, the Knicks played defense. They shot the basketball well. They brought energy. They played with toughness. For the first 32 minutes of the game, that is.
There was a noticeable playoff-atmosphere in The Garden, but if this was a preview of the Knicks’ post season, prime time-readiness, it may be time to go over some offensive sets in practice.
Plenty of blame to go around as usual, from Mike D’Antoni’s inexplicable second-half time-out management, to the Knicks’ abominable late-game offensive execution, and of course, the ad nauseum inability to defend an opponent’s best player(s).
The Knicks could learn a thing or two from the Eastern Conference’s best team, whose 4 stars’ combined plus/minus lines read like a fantasy dream: Kevin Garnett (+22), Paul Pierce (+16), Ray Allen (+18), and Rajon Rondo (+17).
Carmelo Anthony poured in 22 points for the Knicks, but neither he nor Amar’e Stoudemire (16 points, 11 rebounds) scored in the 4th quarter. Chauncey Billups added 21, but he looked stiff and uncomfortable for much of the contest.
On the bright side, the Knicks may have rediscovered a viable option at C, as Ronny Turiaf played with furious defensive abandon in the first half (three blocks), but it remains to be seen whether or not his balky knees will allow him to play at least 25 minutes per night.
Things don’t get any easier with Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic coming to town on Wednesday night, but the Knicks are going to have to find a way to run their offense with composure and poise late in games.
From a statistical perspective, the Knicks could conceivably lose out the remainder of their games and still make the playoffs, but the truth is that this team needs to show that they’re learning from their mistakes and growing together as teammates.
Oh, and those “Paul Pierce S*cks” chants? Probably not such a good idea.
Associated Press photo by Frank Franklin II