Tonight at 7:00 the Knicks will take on the Miami Heat for Game 5 of their first round matchup. All seemed to be lost heading into Game 4 at Madison Square Garden, with Carmelo Anthony being bludgeoned with blame for poor offense, Amar’e Stoudemire being ridiculed for his self-inflicted injury, the Knicks ragged with exhaustion and injuries. But then the Knicks showed something we hadn’t seen in this series: fight.
Amar’e Stoudemire returned to the lineup, his sliced hand wrapped in multiple layers of protection, and gave the Knicks a boost of energy early on. As expected, though, they still struggled and stumbled through a terribly sluggish second quarter to face a six-point deficit at halftime. In the second half, the Knicks found life. They got out on the break for transition baskets, while forcing turnovers. J.R. Smith hit a three-pointer, Stoudemire wrestled to the rim for some one-handed dunks, and most importantly, Carmelo Anthony got going. ‘Melo poured in 41 points, on a number of downright silly, turn-around, midrange jumpers, and a critical pull-up three-pointer off a broken play late in the 4th quarter. The two teams exchanged blow after blow until finally, with one last stop at the buzzer, the Knicks pulled away with an 89-87 win, and snapped a 13-game playoff losing streak.
The one negative take-away, however, was Baron Davis’s gruesome knee injury in the 3rd quarter, later to be determined a partially torn patella tendon and a completely torn ACL and MCL. The Knicks now will have to carry on without Davis (whose injury is expected to take 12 months to heal – we might not see Baron in the NBA again) and use Mike Bibby as their starting point guard. Bibby did hit two huge three-pointers in the second half filling in for Davis, and he is playoff tested. However, he is also Mike Bibby and with a few exceptions this season, he has not inspired confidence or glee from many Knicks fans.
Mike Woodson revealed this morning that Toney Douglas will be the first guard off the bench tonight and will play some minutes at the point. Woodson will also likely use more of that lineup where J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, and Landry Fields all take turns bringing the ball up the floor and trying to set up the offense. While less than ideal, Mike Bibby can’t play 35-40 minutes, and Toney Douglas just hasn’t been good enough to earn major minutes.
Moreover, the Knicks will need more heroic performances from Anthony and Stoudemire. The tandem worked well in Game 4, with both players operating cohesively on pick-and-rolls and not using up each other’s space. Stoudemire’s hand has presumably improved over the last three days, so he may have less trouble securing rebounds and operating to his left. Even while operating with only 75% of his limbs last Sunday, Stoudemire still worked his way to 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Anthony, meanwhile, will have to shoot lights out and continue putting up monster offensive numbers. As Tom Haberstroh pointed out, Anthony scored more at the rim in Game 4 than any other game in the season. Settling for jumpers won’t do against Miami; ‘Melo is going to have to come out in attack mode, and of course, attack efficiently.
Still, Miami is going to come out with urgency and fire because they do not want to go back to New York for Game 6 and risk giving the Knicks confidence. No team in NBA history has come back from a 3-0 deficit. Can the Knicks be the first? Seth Rosenthal over at Posting and Toasting has already started the MILPCAT movement (Most Improbable Legendary Playoff Comeback of All Time).
Do you believe?! No? A little bit? OK, we’ll see. Go Knicks!