True Hoops

True Hoops

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Game Change

Think about it.
With 4:53 to go in the third quarter last night in Indiana, the Knicks trailed by 10.
Their season slipping away.

Then within 103 seconds, with the aid of 4 three pointers (three in a row by Iman Shumpert), the game was tied.

This was it.

The Knicks three point shooting finally came alive - to keep them alive. After going 35 for 106 in the first 5 games of the series (33% - but only 31% in their three losses), the Knicks would finish game six 13 for 30 from three (43%). Throw in Melo scoring 35 points through three quarters on a super efficient 13 of 22 shooting (59% - including a stretch in which he scored 17 of 22 Knick points to keep NY in the game) - this was the Knicks at their best.

Game tied going into the fourth.
At a stand still for much of the final period, the Knicks found themselves up two with the ball, 5:04 to go in the game. Melo, isolation on the right block. The Knicks were headed back to NY for game 7.

Then this happened:

And then the Final five minutes of the game happened.
A 16-7 Pacers run that moved them into the Eastern conference Finals and ended the Knicks season.
What a difference one play can make.

Is it too much to say that if Melo dunks that ball - on Roy Hibbert - the Knicks go back to New York for game 7? And really, is it too much to say that if Melo dunks that ball - on Roy Hibbert - the Knicks play in Miami on Wednesday for the Eastern conference chip?

You want irony? Remember that dunk by Jordan on a Knicks center from Georgetown? What if Ewing blocked that dunk? Might have changed the complexion of the series (though probably not).
But now the Knicks had the team Jordan guy, and their opponent, the Pacers, had the center from georgetown. Time for some pay back right? Wrong.

Oh,  that 7'2" Hibbert guy. He finished the game with 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocks.

So where do we go from here?

For New York.
It was a good season.
Yes, it's a little disappointing that they didn't make the conference finals - since they had all the tools necessary. After the finishing the regular season on fire, arguably the 2nd best team in the league, with talk of Melo having an MVP season (hey -  he got one first place vote) the Knicks just couldn't find their groove in the post season (something changed after that JR Smith elbow).

Had they shot at a high efficiency, they would be in the conference Finals. Had they made a couple of different plays in the fourth quarter last night, they would be in the conference finals. Had Amar'e not gotten injured, they would be in the conference finals. But as New Yorkers know - that's just the history of the Knicks.

And I'm not saying that facetiously. Just honestly.
And in all honesty, this season was a success because the franchise got themselves out of the doldrums of the league and spoke about competing for a championship without making you laugh. After their previous decade of basketball, that in itself was an accomplishment.

The problem is, things aren't going to get easier moving forward.
LeBron James will be 29 next year.
Only one of Indiana's 7 man rotation this series is over 28 (plus they get Danny Granger back).
And I honestly feel that if Derrick Rose is anything like he was his MVP year, with a healthy Luol Deng, the Bulls may be the favorites.

That's not to say the Knicks can't win.
Shumpert can continue to grow.
Smith can continue to be a 6th man of the year candidate.
Amar'e can finally be healthy for a season and get back to how he played for NY in his first year.
Melo can get better as well.
And maybe the Knicks can get the most out of both Melo and Amar'e at the same time.

As always, New York thinks the Knicks can (even those of us that left the team to root for Miami).
But as always, do the Knicks think they can?

For Indiana.
You have to be impressed with these guys.
No bonafide superstars. Just a bunch of rugged multi-faceted good players that all know their role. Almost all five of their starters are averaging double digits in the playoffs (Lance Stevenson averages 9.8 points per game). And they play defense (like best in the league for the regular season type defense). And they rebound (like best in the league during the post-season type rebounding) - 4 out of their 5 starters average almost 7 rebounds or more per game.

Can they push Miami?
Of course they can.
Can they beat Miami?
Anything is possible - especially if Wade is injured.
But do keep in mind, while Indiana pushed Miami to 6 last year - including a 2-1 series lead - they did so while Chris Bosh wasn't playing. And just like against Chicago, Bosh's value will really comes out against Indiana.

And let's not forget that Miami has LeBron James.

But, you could say that Indiana has...... Lance Stevenson.

As crazy as it is to think he can match up against LeBron - it might actually be worth watching. Was it me - or did Stevenson look really strong against the Knicks? In game 6 no one could stop him when he went to the basket. Nine lay-ups! See for yourself:

There were at least three times when he knocked Knicks defenders off balance when they tried to stop him. And he is averaging 8 rebounds per game in the playoffs. With Indiana's lack of depth, for sure he is the X factor this series.

Let's be clear. Stevenson is still raw and can't shoot a lick. He literally shot 2 "space balls" (not air balls) last night. The Heat will certainly take advantage of his deficiencies and they won't allow him to get easy buckets off of mistakes (both defensive and offensive). But throw in his tiny history with LeBron (making a choking gesture from the bench last year in the playoffs - which led to on the court physical retaliation by Heat reserves), and this could be fun to watch.

Brooklyn, your main man is ballin' this post-season!

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