When you consider the last decade of basketball at the Garden — and this is something we certainly encourage you to do, anytime you are feeling down about the team's current incarnation — it's tough not to be thrilled about what went down yesterday against the Miami Heat. The Knicks matched one of the best teams in the NBA almost punch-for-punch, sure, but what was most electrifying was the atmosphere at MSG. This is what the place has been missing for so long. Jay-Z and Beyoncé (sans Blue Ivy, alas) sat courtside, the national television cameras were everywhere, and the MSG was shaking with every basket. Yesterday had the swagger and glitz and import of some of MSG's past heydays. All it was missing was the win.
The Knicks lost to the Heat 93–85 in a game that was a little closer than the score indicated, but a game the Knicks still weren't all that close to winning. But they certainly weren't embarrassed — they didn't look as outmatched as they did the last two times they've played the Heat — and they certainly didn't make anyone think the Heat are about to go on some sort of crazy championship run. (If anything, the Heat look worse than they did last year, and at several other points this season.) But the Knicks really need some more scoring. That's kind of a crazy thing to say, considering.
Carmelo Anthony scored 42 points — and there were times when it looked like he was gonna hit 50 — but only one other Knick hit double figures (J.R. Smith with 16) and by the end, Anthony was clearly exhausted. The game more than resembled some of those old Knicks-Heat slugfests back in the day, missing perhaps only Erik Spoelstra grabbing Tyson Chandler's ankle. Neither team looked spectacular, but each had flashes of brilliance.
It's important to be reminded that the Knicks are shorthanded right now, and that's all the more clear with only Anthony — and Smith, kinda, though Smith's primary offensive contribution right now is the willingness to shoot more than it is necessarily the ability — able to score. Amar'e Stoudemire is supposed to be back Wednesday against the Nets, and while he can obviously score, let's not forget that he and Anthony never have quite figured it out on the floor together and it's unlikely to be pulled together in the last week of the season. The Heat are an outstanding defensive team, but it's not that tough to defend the Knicks right now, particularly when Baron Davis is looking worse every game. (And we're still not quite sure why Mike Woodson had him in the floor in crunch time.) The Knicks have one scoring option. No matter how well Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert are playing defense, that's not enough, not in the playoffs.
Yes, those: It's increasingly possible that these two teams are going to meet in the first round. The Knicks have a chance to catch the Orlando Magic, but they may have to win their last six games and still hope for the Dwight Howard–less Magic to continue to fall apart. (They also could finish behind Philadelphia, though the 76ers have five of their last six games on the road.) But right now, the most likely scenario — 63.4 percent chance, says Basketball Prospectus — is the Knicks playing the Heat first off. That'll make for a must-see, impossible-ticket series, and maybe Jay-Z will show up again. (Though he should be busy with the Nets, one would think.) Every single one of those games will be the highest-profile of any in the first round. But until the Knicks can figure out other ways to score than simply giving the ball to Anthony and watching him go ... it's tough to see how the Knicks are going to have any more luck in that series than they did yesterday.