The Knicks will cap off their regular season tonight when they take on the Atlanta Hawks. It’s unknown exactly who will play, but at this point, it’s just an extra 48 minutes for the Knicks as they wind down the season and get ready for the playoffs.
It’s been a wild ride, too. There was a hot start to begin the season, as the Knicks took everyone by surprise and emerged as contenders in the Eastern Conference. In the middle, plagued by injuries, adjusting to new members of the rotation, the Knicks struggled, playing only .500 basketball and appearing as mere shadows of their November-December selves. Then, out of nowhere, still lacking normal bodies in their rotation, the Knicks, led by Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, got scorching hot and have thus far gone 14-2 through their final 16 games.
So, with the end of the regular season hours away, here’s a look back at the top 10 moments of the 2012-13 season:
10.) Blowout of the San Antonio Spurs at MSG (1/3/13):
A blowout of the Spurs never feels quite as satisfying since there’s no bad blood between the teams (unless you cling desperately to that Finals loss in ’98-99). Nonetheless, blowing out the top team in the Western Conference on your home floor is a good time. The Knicks didn’t let a single Spur score over 12 points, and generally put up one of their best defensive performances, holding the Spurs to 83 points on 36% shooting. J.R. Smith stole the show with a big chase-down block, and the whole blowout culminated with, perhaps, his best alley-oop as a Knick.
9.) Win over Golden State Warriors, despite Stephen Curry’s 54 points (2/27/13):
It says something when an opponent’s performance makes a game worth remembering. Mired in some disappointingly average play, the Knicks took on the Warriors in a nationally televised game, and had to fight until the final moments to overcome an absolute explosion from Steph Curry. The young point guard put on a delightfully torturous show in front of the MSG crowd, dropping 54 points, including 11-13 shooting from deep. But there were the Knicks fighting right back. Tyson Chandler pulled down 28 boards; Raymond Felton, after getting torched all night, came up with a big block on Curry down the stretch; and Carmelo Anthony and J.R. smith combined for 61 points and hit a number of big buckets in the fourth quarter to spoil Curry’s eruption.
Another nationally televised contest, another win for the Knicks. Minus Carmelo Anthony, the Heat with a full roster, the Knicks didn’t seem to have much hope of winning this one. After struggling in the first half to contain the Heat, however, the Knicks poured it on by simply firing away from deep. Led by Raymond Felton’s 27 points on 6-10 shooting from three-point range, the Knicks just ran away with it. They dropped in a total of 18 treys on 44 attempts, and beat the Heat by 20 points in Miami. It was the Knicks’ second stomping of the heat on the season.
7.) J.R. Smith game-winner in Charlotte (12/5/12):
It was the night before the aforementioned miracle in Miami, and the Knicks were supposed to get an easy win over the Bobcats. However, the Bobcats gave the Knicks all they could handle, at times leading New York by as many as 10 points. After Carmelo Anthony hurt his finger diving into the bench to save a loose ball, the Knicks turned to their defense down the stretch to force the Bobcats into a bevy of critical turnovers. New York forced a five-second violation on an inbounds which led to a Felton layup on the other end to even the game. Then, after stealing the ball and calling a timeout, with 3.4 seconds remaining, the Knicks put the ball in Smith’s hands. Game.
6.) Opening night beatdown of the Heat (11/2/12):
That second blowout of the Heat preceded this for a number of reasons. The Knicks kicked off the NBA season (after it was delayed by Hurricane Sandy in October) by swiftly stomping the Heat on their home floor. Always nice. Furthermore, those 18 threes they hit in Miami? One less than what they hit opening night in MSG. That’s right, 19 three-pointers in their NBA seasn debut, and a 20-point blowout of the reigning champions. Carmelo Anthony led the show with a scintillating start to the season that reeked of a this-is-my-house message to the rest of the NBA.
5.) J.R. Smith game-winner in Phoenix (12/26/12):
Minus Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton, the Knicks had to scrape one in Phoenix the day after Christmas. Jason Kidd and Smith both came up with heroic performances to give New York the win, notching 23 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, and 27 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, respectively. While the game on a whole wasn’t quite so memorable, the finish was electric. Smith came up with a near-impossible shot to tie the game at 97; Kidd forced a turnover on Phoenix’s final possession; Smith took the Knicks home with another high-degree-of-difficulty shot along the baseline at the buzzer.
4.) Big win over Thunder in Oklahoma City (4/7/13):
Again, not much of a rivalry between these two, but facing the top team in the Western Conference always makes for an exciting nationally televised showdown. It also put the Knicks’ win streak on the line and featured the top two scorers in the NBA, Anthony and Kevin Durant. The Knicks had a tough time defending the Thunder’s explosive attack, but New York retaliated with perhaps their own most explosive offensive performance of the season. The Knicks got huge offensive performances all around, including 37 points from Anthony, and a combined 55 points off the bench. It was an all-around team effort that featured big plays from Felton and Chandler, and critical baskets from ‘Melo, Kidd, and Smith, who hit the biggest shot of the day, once again.
3.) Comeback in San Antonio (11/15/12):
Seems weird to have two games/moments against a team that has no rivalry with the Knicks. However, down 12 with seven minutes to go, the game’s fate seemingly wrapped up, the Knicks exploded. Raymond Felton’s dribble penetration set up layups for himself, back-to-back deep threes for Jason Kidd, a dunk for Tyson Chandler, and a game-sealing three from Smith. The Spurs, seemingly awestruck at their own collapse, suddenly faltered fatally down the stretch and had no answer for the sudden onslaught from the Knicks. It came on a night when nothing would drop for ‘Melo, too, but the rest of the team picked up the slack and continued their win streak to open the season.
2.) ‘Melo drops 50 on the Heat (4/2/13):
Regardless of whether Miami sat LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Mario Chalmers, this same Heat lineup had beaten the Spurs in San Antonio the game before. The Knicks needed a win to keep the Pacers at bay, and they got a tremendously huge performance from Anthony. From the start, Anthony whipped the nets on catch-and-shoots and pull-up jumpers from all over the floor. On top of it, not a single basket within the paint. His right hand was hot enough to fry an egg, and the Heat hadn’t an answer to his insanely sizzling stroke. Even better, down the stretch, when Miami forced the ball out of his hands, J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton both came up with big baskets to put Miami away and give the Knicks an important win.
1.) ‘Melo’s 45, Kidd’s game-winner in Brookyln (12/11/12:
The most talked-about confrontation in the offseason began with a dud as the season-opener was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy, and the first meeting was a sort of anti-climactic Nets win. The second game was the type of showcase the NBA dreamed of when the two teams became inner-city rivals. After falling behind by double-digits in the first half, the Knicks stormed back behind an amped up defense and another scoring outburst from ‘Melo. No matter the defender, Anthony splashed nets from inside and out, off the bounce and off the catch for a then-season-high of 45 points. Down the stretch, however, it was Jason Kidd that came to the rescue with a four-point play (that should’ve been an offensive foul, but whatever; we’ll take it) that put the Knicks up three with 24 seconds to play. The Nets squandered two opportunities to tie the game, and the Knicks got their signature win of the season.
What moments did we miss? Comment below and tell us your thought on the Knicks’ best moments of the season!
Follow Scott Davis on Twitter: @WScottDavis