It has been 4,731 days since the New York Knicks won a playoff series. May 21, 2000. The number one movie in the country was Gladiator. “Oops! … I Did It Again” sold 500,000 copies on its first day of release. Boo.com filed for bankruptcy. Steve Allen was still alive. Someone born that day can get legally married in New Hampshire. It was a long time ago. Tonight, the Knicks finally broke through.
It got awfully hairy late, though, thanks to an insane 20-0 run, but the Knicks, as it turns out, are not actually the New York Yankees. They beat the Celtics 88-80 tonight to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time since 2000, when the man who called the game tonight on ESPN was actually the coach. There was no collapse, no karmic recourse for the (totally overstated) funeral business, no Carmelo Chokes ugliness. The Knicks just went out and won tonight, because they were a better team than Boston, and better teams usually win. But boy, did it get terrifying.
Carmelo Anthony wasn’t the star, which is almost always a good sign, particularly when the second star wasn’t J.R. Smith. The leading scorer for most of the game, if you can believe this, was Pablo Prigioni, who hit three three-pointers in the first quarter and made it clear he won’t be playing only thirteen minutes in any other game the rest of this postseason. Iman Shumpert’s defense set the tone for the whole series, and that three-pointer is starting to fall with more regularity. In fact, that lunatic Celtics run happened when coach Mike Woodson, somewhat inexplicably, kept Prigioni and Shumpert on the bench. His “closer” lineup did the exact opposite. And through it all, Paul Pierce, the Knick assassin, had a terrible night, going 4-for-18 from the field, 1-for-9 from 3-point range.
Of course, there was that fourth quarter, which featured that mortifying Celtics run but, in retrospect, was more a reflection of Knicks fans’ fears than an actual near comeback. (After all, the Knicks were up by 26.) It would have been nearly impossible for the Knicks to blow it … and they didn’t.
There is so much to take away from tonight. A series win that might just put an end to the decade in the Isiah desert once and for all. The end of the Celtics dynasty, with the real possibility that Pierce and Kevin Garnett might never play together again. Carmelo Anthony reaching the second round for the second time in his career. A semifinals matchup that looks potentially enticing, and winnable. The Knicks reaching a point they haven’t hit in more than a decade directly after their most divisive off-season in memory. But right now, let’s all just revel in it. The Knicks just won a playoff series. It has been so long. They’re going to play the Indiana Pacers, with the winner heading to the conference finals. We’ll deal with that later. The Knicks beat the Celtics and have advanced. Everybody drink. Everybody celebrate. Everybody exhale.