For the first six or so minutes of the Knicks' 106-94 season-ending loss to the Miami Heat, it looked like, improbably, out of whole cloth, the Knicks were going to win this game, or at least make the Heat earn it. Their offense was crisp in a way it hadn't been in weeks, their ball movement was terrific, Mike Bibby (Mike Bibby!) looked like the non-Linsanity point guard the Knicks have been waiting for all season, and the team showed legitimate fervor. Then they ran out of it.
The Heat won this series because they were the better team, and they probably would have been a better team had the Knicks suffered no injuries and had everyone at full capacity. But the Knicks did have injuries, and for all the enthusiasm they showed in a Game 4 win and at the beginning of this game, they eventually just ran out of gas. By halftime they were wheezing, by the end of the third quarter they were gasping and by the end of the fourth, they were clearly in desperate need of some time off. They are about to get it.
This was not the sort of game in which there is anyone in particular to "blame" for a loss — the Heat were better, in spite of their own lackadaisical tendencies that seem destined to bite them sometime over the next month — but if you're able to avoid tears when J.R. Smith signs with another team this off-season, this game will be a pretty solid reason why. He was the worst J.R. Smith he could be all game, turning the ball over repeatedly and missing random terrible shots every time he was afforded the slightest opportunity. We have grown to enjoy Smith's shenanigans this season, but this is why you can't count on a guy like Smith: If he is your second-best scoring option, you're doomed. Not that anyone else helped out much. Amar'e Stoudemire was inconsistent, Steve Novak was a non-factor again, and, most disturbingly, Tyson Chandler pretty much sleepwalked through the entire game, failing to help out on drives to the basket and repeatedly being out-muscled on rebounds. Honestly: He just looked exhausted. The whole team did. When your emotional leader has nothing left in the tank, you know the rest of the team is toast. (Landry Fields showed some fire late, but hey: He's young.) Carmelo Anthony did what he could, scoring 36 points, but the whole second half was basically Carmelo dribbling for 21 seconds and then throwing up a crazy shot. Some of them went in, but this is not a solid long-term plan, to say the least. The question remains, though: Is that what Carmelo wants his team to be? Sometimes we worry.
It wasn't a particularly fantastic night for Mike Woodson either, to be honest, who, like he has during most of his tenure as interim coach, rode Smith for way, way too long and was inconsistent in some of his foul-trouble substitutions (taking out Anthony so early with two fouls, leaving Stoudemire in too long with four). His fate will be the Knicks' first order of business in the off-season.
And yep, it's now the off-season. This lunatic season, one that no one will forget regardless of this series, is in the past. The Knicks are done. There are dozens of questions for this franchise to answer, but there's plenty of time. Now, tonight, is just the finish of this team. It ended up hurting a little less than one would have thought. It'll feel good for everybody to move on and be done with it.