The Knicks finished the season going 18-6 after parting ways with D’Antoni. Carmelo caught fire in April, scoring just under 30 per (29.8), and shooting 46% from the field and behind the arc. The Knicks were 6-3 during that stretch. They beat Orlando, Atlanta, Boston, and the number 1 seed Chicago Bulls. Iman Shumpert looked like a defensive veteran, Baron Davis was holding down the point in Jeremy Lin’s absence, J. R. Smith even had a few games of notable accomplishment, and Woodson had a team that had forgotten how to play defense (or simply never knew) getting it done on both ends of the court.
The Knicks went hard down the stretch, chasing the number 6 seed, and falling just short; landing at 7 to face the Heat in the first round. The Knicks hung out in the number 8 spot for a while. As a reward for all that effort, their prize was to face their biggest foe of this season- The Ridiculous 3 and the rest of the Miami Heat. Meanwhile, Philly gets the Chicago Bulls minus Derek Rose AND Joakim Noah. The Knicks get Tyson Chandler with the flu and Iman Shumpert blowing his knee out in game one. Oh, and Amare slices his hand open after game 2. Oh yeah, and the back up point guard, 33 year old Baron Davis, tears his knee in game 4…not the ideal situation for a team still struggling to find its true identity and playing a team that had beaten them 3 out of 3 times in the regular season by over 10 points per game. If ever there were a time when hard work didn’t pay off, this was it.
As expected, the Heat went on to close out the Knicks in a decisive game five, beating the Knicks by (a much uglier than first glance) 12 points. Amare had returned, and while he contributed big in game 4, was a complete mess in game 5, picking up his 5th foul mid-way through the third. Melo gave a strong offensive effort, but the Heat were just too much: too much defense, too much offense…just too much.
As a fan, I enjoyed what the Knicks did in April. And I’m not suggesting they should have tanked the end of the season, but I can’t help but wonder what good all that effort did them. Couldn’t Tyson Chandler, Melo, and certainly Baron Davis used some time off? They didn’t prove anything by winning just one game against the Heat. Maybe they would have stood a better chance against the Bulls. Maybe they would have been able to stretch the series out long enough for a Jeremy Lin return. Maybe Amare would have kept his hands to himself instead of shattering a fire extinguisher in Chicago. Maybe. But there’s no denying the Knicks went hard in April, and then…went home in the first round.
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