Just as things were finally looking up for the ‘Bockers (25-25), word broke late yesterday afternoon that Amar’e Stoudemire suffers from a bulging disc in his back (I am fairly certain the issue is, in fact, with his disc, see below) which will keep him out “indefinitely.” Yup, that sound you heard was the collective gasps ‘n groans of a fan base that has become more snake-bitten than Budd from Kill Bill: Vol. 2.
Oh, the humanity!
The irony, of course, is that Amar’e had finally began to resemble the player that was a legitimate MVP-candidate during the first third of the the 2010-’11 season, having averaged 18.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game during the month of March.
Yet despite the clearly erroneous and unquestionably misguided ramblings of some, the unfortunate disposition (literally) of STAT’s back is no one’s fault. Not deposed former-coach Mike D’Antoni, whose up-tempo style does not correlate with increased risk of player-injury. And certainly not Stoudemire himself, who by all accounts has worked extremely hard to regain his form after originally injuring his back on a dunk attempt during warm-ups prior to Game 2 of last season’s playoff match up against Boston.
No, this just happens in professional sports sometimes. It’s the nature of the beast, guys get hurt. There is no one to blame, there was nothing that could have been done to prevent it, and for coach Mike Woodson and the Knicks, there is certainly no time to lament Stoudemire’s loss.
The beat goes on.
And so it did last night at the Garden, sans Amar’e, as New York took care of business – albeit in hideous, ugly fashion – against the Milwaukee Bucks, the former extending its lead over the latter to 2.5 games for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
Playoff positioning aside, with Stoudemire now gone for the foreseeable future, and perhaps longer, the Knicks’ margin for error just went from slim to none.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- No, I am not a Carmelo Anthony hater. Yes, I call ’em like I see ’em, and yes, I do think he bears some responsibility for the way the exiled Mike D’Antoni was unceremoniously disposed of, but the truth is that for the Knicks to have any chance at success this season and beyond, they will need ‘Melo to play to his full potential. Last night, the small forward become a power forward, and that didn’t cure his shooting woes, but Anthony did admirably gut through a groin injury en route to 28 points (on 20 shots, 12-12 from the line) and 12 rebounds over 35 minutes. As has always been the case, when Anthony gets to the charity stripe, he finds success. That he only attempted two treys may be a sign that he understands what he needs to do going forward. If you’re into silver linings, not having STAT in the paint should, theoretically, provide ‘Melo with more space to work his magic.
- The Knicks won the 3rd quarter! Let me clarify: THE F%@*ING KNICKS WON THE F%@*ING THIRD QUARTER! Down five to begin the second half, New York managed to avoid its season-long post-half doldrums, though admittedly, neither team seemed interested in making shots in the frame — the Knicks and Bucks shot just 20.9% collectively. The difference was New York’s ability to get to the line; they attempted a whopping 18 free throws, making 15 of them, en route to a 21-12 3rd quarter advantage.
- There are those that think that in order to label a player as “elite,” said player must have demonstrated a consistent ability to walk on water, but when it comes to Iman Shumpert‘s defense, what more does he need to do, exactly? I wonder if Monta Ellis thinks the Knicks rookie is an elite defender, given that the Bucks’ typically-lethal scorer was held to just 4 points on 2-of-14 shooting. Not only did 21 Shump Street (11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) hound and confound on the defensive end, he also managed to go 3-of-6 from long-range — one of which was of the game-icing variety — on a night when the Knicks collectively shot just 22.6% from the beyond the arc. Growing pains on the offensive end aside, I really heart this kid.
- The Knicks made 30-of-35 (85.7%) free throw attempts last night, which is really excellent and stuff.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- The Knicks were also without the services of Jeremy Lin (knee), which was somewhat surprising as he had participated in the team’s morning shootaround and suggested to the media that he would play. Lin is day-to-day — aren’t we all?! — and should play Wednesday, but his temporary loss, combined with Stoudemire’s and word that Jared Jeffries (knee) isn’t likely to be avilable for at least two weeks, makes what was just recently a deep bench quite suspect.
- DOOM BIZZLE! Oh, Baron Davis, you, Sir, are a maddening player to watch. Davis (13 points on 3-of-12 shooting and 9 turnovers) was all over the place last night, and not in a Shumpert-like good way. After logging 34 minutes against the Bucks — twice his season average of 17.8, although he played 31 minutes against those same Bucks back on March 9th — one has to wonder if Baron will need extended treatment from the Knicks’ medical staff today… on his lungs. In fairness to Davis, he did go 6-for-6 from the line, so he was perfect from a certain point of view! Get well soon, Jeremy!
- I mentioned it before the game, but for the Knicks to absorb the loss of Amar’e — if that’s even possible — Tyson Chandler is going to have be a featured part of the offense. Last night he only took seven shots, which just isn’t going to cut it. He needs twice as many attempts, which should be commonplace once Lin returns and the pair can work their Pick ‘n Roll magic from the high post with regularity.
- No one can deny that J.R. Smith is an entertaining player, but jacking up 10 three-point attempts, and making just one of them, is completely unacceptable. Here’s a thought: how about getting into the lane and drawing a foul or two? Sigh.
- The great Al Trautwig had a whoopsie moment during the pre-game last night, and if you didn’t see it…well, enjoy!
- Next up for the Knicks: Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. v. the Orlando Magic. Early word is that Anthony will receive treatment on his injured groin today in hopes of being ready, but just how effective he can be remains to be seen
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Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images