April 22, 2012
The New York Knicks squeaked by with a 113-112 win in Atlanta this afternoon over the Hawks. On the final play of the game, the Hawks’missed a dunk that would not have counted as time ran out before the ball left his hands, while being harassed in the air by the Knicks tandem of and Amare Stoudemire. Melo had 39 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a hotly contested game between two teams that have already clinched playoff spots. The Hawks shot 15-23 from 3-point range to keep the game close throughout, with Williams finishing with 29 points and 11 rebounds.
In his second game back in action, missing 13 games over the last month after suffering a bulging disc back injury, Stoudemire had 22 points and 12 rebounds. Landry Fields showed up big for the Knicks, which they’ll need in the playoffs, shooting well and scoring 18 points. Lack of a second consistent scorer probably cost the Knicks a win a week ago against their likely opponent in the playoffs’ first round, the Miami Heat. Anthony had 43 points against Miami, but with the game on the line the Heat’s three star players, Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh overcame a Knick 4-point lead early in the fourth quarter to regain and maintain the edge the rest of the way. Atlanta occupies the 5th seed and is likely to play the Boston Celtics in the opening round.
There has been no mention thus far as to whether Jeremy Lin will be able to return for the playoffs, although he reportedly had stitches removed from knee surgery early last week. With no Lin or Stoudemire, Anthony has virtually carried the team to playoff eligibility by finally playing in New York like a superstar, with an all-around floor game, especially over the past three weeks. However, there is a glaring need for consistent point guard play if New York is going to be a force in playoff competition. Ironically, that has been their Achilles heel all year, except for the brief period that “Lin-sanity” reigned over the metropolitan area. Their opponents obviously knew that and started to play rough against Lin, whenever he came inside, penetrating the paint whether attempting to score or pass.
Baron Davis has played with infrequent flashes of his formerly great ability, but was really more of a lead than point guard in his career, usually seeking to score first rather than distribute the ball. There is still hope that his long experience will make up for the limitations of aging and his long recovery from herniated disc surgery last year. With the Orlando Magic’sout for the season and facing the same surgery, there’s still an outside chance that New York can take over the 6th playoff seed position in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. The Knicks would have to win their remaining two games and Orlando would have to lose their remaining three for that to happen, with the teams finishing in a tie and the Knicks owning the tie-breaker. The Magic play the Nuggets, tonight in Denver.
No matter how critics analyze the situation, there’s once again excitement in springtime beyond the start of a new baseball season, in the NYC, tri-state area with the Knicks making the playoffs for the second year in a row with star-caliber players in the line-up. Since Mike D’Antoni’s resignation andbeing named interim head coach, the Knicks (34-30) have had a 16-6 record, primarily playing against contending teams down the stretch. However, with demanding fans having high expectations, they’ll have to win a couple of games and be competitive in all in the first round to satisfy a fan base that’s been starving for a decade.