We have very much enjoyed Free Darko’s Bethlehem Shoals musing wisely on the Knicks-Lakers series and history over at MSG.com this week. This series hasn’t been what you’d like an East Coast-West Coast “rivalry” to be over the last decade, but of the disappointments over the last decade, “not being able to keep up with the Lakers” is relatively low on the list. (Since Y2K, the Lakers have won 108 playoff games. The Knicks have won two.)
The Lakers come into the Garden tonight red-hot, beating the Celtics in Boston last night and winning three in a row, all against potential playoff teams (New Orleans, Memphis and Boston). It will be their fourth game in six days, though, and last night’s win was a particularly emotional one. The Knicks could catch them tired tonight.
But let’s not get crazy. Coach Mike D’Antoni, when asked yesterday about how his team stacks up to the Lakers, chuckled and said, “Not very well. We’re a long way away.” We were actually at the Knicks’ practice yesterday and saw the Knicks second team pretend to be the Lakers to help the first-team understand the plays the
Blue Purple and Gold run. Your Pau Gasol impersonator was Shawne Williams. Your Ron Artest was Bill Walker. Your Andrew Bynum was Anthony Randolph. Your Kobe Bryant was Kelenna Azubuike. It’ll be very different tonight.
The Knicks are likely to lose tonight, which will drop them to .500 for the first time since November 28. That would make tomorrow’s night game in Newark as essential in order to avoid falling under .500, which would be awfully discouraging for a team that’s supposedly having a breakthrough season. This is what happens when you lose to the Clippers at home.
Regardless of the outcome tonight, here’s something to consider: This is almost certainly the last game Phil Jackson will ever coach at the Garden. There was a consistent rumor that Jackson would coach his old team over the last decade, and if the Knicks had ever not been horrible during the last ten years, he might have even done it. He’ll say goodbye tonight, and call us saps, but we kind of hope the Garden gives him a big ovation in his last trip. Or, at the very least, just not chant Carmelo’s name.