The season for the New York Knicks began with the proclamation “The Knicks are back” by Amar’e Stoudemire when he signed in July 2010. The Knicks are back, back in the playoffs, but a combination of injuries to Chauncey Billups and Amar’e Stoudemire, lack of execution down the stretch, and minimal contribution from younger players, led to the Knicks being eliminated by the Boston Celtics in a four-game sweep.
Trailing 0-2, the Knicks limped back home and ran onto the court to a thunderous roar from the sold-out, playoff-starved Knicks fans Friday evening, who were expecting a great effort after the Knicks lost the first two games of the series by a combined five points. Instead, the Knicks got blitzed by the Celtics to begin game three, trailing 22-5 after two free throws by Rajon Rondo with 4:11 left in the first quarter.
The Knicks were able to cut it to five, 42-37, with 3:24 left in the first half on a jumper by Shawne Williams, and trailed by nine, 61-52 at the half. But in the second half, the Celtics would lead by double-digits for good, after a Paul Pierce three pointer with 9:07 left in the third quarter gave them a 61-50 lead. Amar’e Stoudemire, who missed the second half of game two with a back injury, was clearly not himself, as he shot 2-8 from the floor and finished with 7 points and 3 rebounds. After a dominant game two in which he scored 42 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, Carmelo Anthony put up a sub par effort, going 4-16 from the field, finishing with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
In game four, the Knicks played with a lot more effort, but shot the ball terribly in the first half, going 11-47 from the field (23.4%). After trailing by as many as 22, 70-48 with 7:29 left in the third quarter on a lay up by Kevin Garnett, the Knicks were able to cut the lead to four, 84-80, on a jumper by Anthony Carter. Unfortunately for the Knicks, the Celtics were able to close out the game on a 17-9 run, and thus, the series.
Many Knicks fans were left asking the question “Would the outcome of the series have been different if Chauncey Billups played?” Billups thinks it would have been. I feel like if I were able to finish game one we would have come away with the win. That’s what hurts my heart.”
Toney Douglas, who played a lot more with Billups out, shot 15-41 for the series (37%) and averaged 10.8 points. Worse, rookie Landry Fields shot 3-15 (20%) and averaged an unmentionable 1.8 points in the series. The Knicks failed to have two players average over 15 points per game in the series, a recipe for disaster.
The Knicks head into the off season with many questions, with the biggest and most important starting at the top. Knicks General Manager Donnie Walsh has an option in his contract that must be picked up by Saturday, April 30, 2011. If not, his contract expires at the end of June. If Walsh does not return, the Knicks would need to replace him as soon as possible with the draft upcoming.
Knicks Head Coach Mike D’Antoni is under contract next season, but didn’t seem very confident about his return after the final game of the season Sunday, speaking about the organization as if he were not a part of it. “With him (Amar’e Stoudemire) and Carmelo going forward, the Knicks are in good shape,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Going forward, the Knicks are looking good on paper, and most seem to agree, including Carmelo Anthony. “I am excited about the upcoming seasons. We proved to a lot of people, shorthanded or not, that we are going to compete on an night-in and night-out basis. I am pretty sure we gained a lot of respect from a lot of people. This is a first step in something great to come. We had some ups, we had some downs. To be able to compete the way we did against a championship caliber team, I will take that.”
Knicks fans will look forward to a greater season next year. Carmelo said “We have happy times ahead of us.” Indeed, the Knicks do. Amar’e Stoudemire put it best: “Its been a great year from start to finish. It’s been ups and downs but its been great.” Yes, Knicks fans, the season was filled with ups and downs, but the future should have many more ups, and far less downs.