Let me begin by stating the obvious; losses don’t get much tougher than last night’s crushing Knick defeat in Boston. Well, unless you were a Yankee fan in 2004, but that’s neither here nor there.
It was a letdown of epic proportions — a failure to seize karmic reigns that was as demoralizing as it was predictable.
The game had it all. Playoff intensity. An unconscious, Jordan-like performance from an oft-scorned superstar. A riveting ending. And more post-game questions than answers.
But make no mistake, the New York Knicks gained invaluable experience in Game 2’s defeat – and not just for next season or future playoff runs — for the remainder of this series.
Think about what happened on the Celtics’ home floor last night. The Knicks lost Game 1 would-be hero Amar’e Stoudemire (back spasms) for the entire second half. Their poorly-cast, yet dangerous starting point guard, Chauncey Billups, was injured and unable to suit up. New York played Jared Jefferies, Bill Walker, Shawne Williams, and this guy during crunch time, yet still came within a Jefferies miscue of beating the once-mighty Celtics on the road.
Oh yes, the Eastern Conference quarterfinals are far from over.
A few tidbits:
- Carmelo Anthony needed a blood transfusion after the game, but thankfully Bernard King was waiting at Westchester Airport’s infirmary when the team’s plane arrived around 1 a.m. Yes, the two great Knick scorers share the same blood type — like you didn’t know that already. ‘Melo was simply unstoppable in Game 2 — on both ends of the floor — and his heart, determination and moxie while Stoudemire was sidelined was as historic a playoff-performance as you’ll ever see. Sure, it would have been nice to get the win, but any questions about Anthony’s deficient all-around game — 42 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks over 44 minutes — best be laid to rest. And for those that would criticize his brain-fart in the waning seconds by not draping himself all over Delonte West on the final Celtic inbounds… well, unless your LeBron’s mom, who in their right mind would want to get up close ‘n personal with West? Yuck.
- Landry Fields. We seen us enough of some Landry Fields. Four points and ZERO rebounds over 15 minutes adds up to a -13 plus/minus. Perhaps now casual fans will realize that early season put-backs and great hair do not a great (or even good) player make.
- Folks will point to Walker’s unsightly 0-for-11 in the box score, but he, Anthony and Stoudemire and are the only pseudo-intimidators on the floor. I understand that he took some bad shots, but I also know that he makes Ray Allen and Paul Pierce very uncomfortable, and he is capable of providing instant offense as we saw in Game 1. Between Walker and Williams, not that either is a world-beater, I will take Walker in this type of knock-down, drag-out series.
- Jared Jefferies should not be blamed for the last play of the game. Without his stellar effort (10 points, 6 rebounds and fantastic defense), the Knicks surely lose the game by double digits. Yes, he should have went up with the ball after ‘Melo found him out of the double-team, but the play wasn’t drawn up for him to take the shot, and no one’s ever accused Jefferies of having a high basketball IQ. Which brings us to…
- Coach Mike D’Antoni has some ‘splainin’ to do. Now I’m already on record as saying that the Knicks’ Game 1 effort almost certainly ensures that MDA will be back for the 2011-12 season — and I only feel more strongly about that sentiment after Game 2 — but @KnicksFanBlog, @netw3rk and @bandwagonknick made great Twitter-points last night with respect to the personnel and play-calling decisions made by D’Antoni during that fateful last 13 seconds of the game. The Boston Celtics do not like to double-team opposing players. At all. Yet during the last three minutes of the game, they doubled ‘Melo on every Knick possession. As such, D’Antoni knew Anthony would be double-teamed on the last play, so why not have his best offensive players on the floor so you have the best chance to execute the play — assuming ‘Melo isn’t playing 1-on-5. The Knicks had what I think was a solid play drawn up. They rightfully assumed that Anthony would be doubled, he therefore correctly passed to Jefferies, who was supposed to find a back-cutting Walker for the potential game-winner. Unfortunately, as often happens on the floor, spacing was not entirely as diagramed, and Jefferies found himself closer to the basket than he probably thought he would be. Obviously, he’s got to go up with a shot there, but as we all know, he didn’t — instead getting flustered and trying an ill-advised pass that was broken up by Kevin Garnett. Asking ‘Melo to take the final shot is another strategic debate altogether. Let’s be fair here, if Jefferies scores, or delivers a pass to the streaking Walker for a game-winning dunk, then D’Antoni is a hero for coming up with the play. Sadly, it just wasn’t meant to be.
I may be in the minority, but I happen to think that the Knicks are very much still alive in this series. They’ve played through extreme adversity, and come very close to triumph. Let’s see how the ol’ karma shakes out back in New York with a roster closer to full (flawed) strength.
Game 3 is Friday night at Madison Square Garden, and Amar’e said after Game 2 that he expects to play.
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