Let’s name all the breaks the Knicks caught tonight in their 87-70 Game 3 loss to the Miami Heat. The Heat played terribly on offense the entire first half, particularly in the half-court set; LeBron James had an awful first half and sat out most of the third quarter with foul trouble; the crowd was fired up and roaring from the get-go; players like Landry Fields and Mike Bibby had breakthrough (for them) offensive nights; Tyson Chandler showed just how he won that Defensive Player of the Year award; the Heat got almost nothing from their bench; the pace of the game slowed to that of a nasty mid-February Big Ten game between Wisconsin and Iowa. The Knicks led by 10 with just a few minutes left in the first half. It was exactly the type of game the Knicks could steal. But they didn’t: They never took charge when the opportunity was there. Then, the fourth quarter started … and suddenly, violently, the opportunity was no longer there. It made you wonder if it ever was.
“A real fiasco, nobody wants to shoot it,” Walt Frazier said in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, a grotesquerie that started with a two-point Heat lead that LeBron James expanded with a blitz of eight face-punching points that left the Knicks reeling … toast, really. You could hardly blame the Knicks for not wanting to shoot in the disastrous final quarter: LeBron James outscored them (he had 17 in the frame), and did it with legitimate menace. This series is over. It was probably over before the game started.
The Garden really was rocking in the first half, though, and that’s to the fans’ credit, considering how much ugly basketball was being played. (Particularly that feller in the Delonte West jersey.) The Knicks’ best lineups were their defensive ones — often with Chandler and Jared Jeffries in the game at the same time, with even some fun spinning from Josh Harrellson, who probably should have played more — and they took advantage of the hideousness, even building that 10-point lead and making it look for a while that there was more legitimate fight in the team that anyone had suspected. But the Heat, thanks to an odd defensive lapse at the end of the half, cut the lead to four by halftime, and you had the sense that this wasn’t going to be the upset it briefly looked like it would be. The Heat superstars were about to wake up. Dwyane Wade scored 12 points in the third quarter to give the Heat the lead back, and that was dwarfed by James’s complete annihilation in the fourth. In retrospect, it almost looked like the Heat were just messing with the Knicks, who scored only 28 points in the second half, all of which felt like bloodletting.
It wasn’t a pleasant night for Carmelo Anthony either, who might be hearing about this one for a while. He was 7 for 23 from the field and just never did get himself untracked; by the fourth quarter, he was the same slack-jawed bystander the rest of us were. Anthony needed to score like crazy, he needed to have a game like the did against the Bulls for the Knicks to have a chance. He needed to be a superstar. He was a fair bit shy of that, to say the least. To be fair: The Heat double and triple-teamed him the whole game. Why wouldn’t they?
Ultimately, it’s probably pushing it to say that the Knicks missed an opportunity this evening, even considering how much went in the team’s favor in the first half, and even some of the chances they had in the second half. Once the Heat — well, Wade and LeBron, really — turned it on in the second half, it was made pretty clear that the Knicks were probably never in this game; they just, for a quick second, thought they were. It feels a little silly, in retrospect. But, of course, the Knicks have now lost 13 straight playoff games and, after this crazy season, are a game Sunday away from being swept for the second consecutive season. Facing 3-0, frankly, a lot of this season, almost everything leading to this point … it all feels a little silly. This is probably gonna be over Sunday. Hell, it already is.