After finally hitting their stride and going on a run that included wins in six of seven games, the New York Knicks actually began to look like a team capable of saving their season and reaching the playoffs.
Things were good in Knick nation, considering the circumstances.
With the exception of the never ending issues concerning J.R. Smith, New York had managed to rattle off five straight victories and move into a tie for the final playoff spot in the dismal Eastern Conference prior to their tilt in Charlotte this past Tuesday.
But unfortunately for the Knicks (15-25), the Bobcats ended their longest winning streak of the season with a 108-98 victory, leaving New York unable regain their footing in time to handle a tough Pacers’ team that cruised to a 117-89 thrashing of their rivals on Thursday night.
Friday night didn’t go any better for the Knicks who welcomed the L. A. Clippers to town for the first game of the franchise’s longest homestand since December of 1986, and after losing their third straight, New York will undoubtedly need a miracle to salvage the season.
Despite entering halftime knotted at 50 apiece, New York couldn’t hang on to a 65-62 lead with just over four minutes left in the third. Clearly outgunned, the Knicks watched as the high-flying Clippers went on a 14-2 run that resulted in a 76-67 lead to begin the final quarter.
Led by Blake Griffin’s 32 points and seven rebounds combined with 29 points from Jamaal Crawford, the Chris Paul-less Clippers outscored their hosts 33-28 in the fourth to earn their fifth-straight win and improve to 8-2 over their last 10 games.
Currently evicted from the Staples Center due to the Grammy Awards, L.A.’s “other team” began their second seven-game road trip of the season on Friday night, and will travel to Indianapolis for a showdown with the Pacers on Saturday.
While Carmelo Anthony led the way for New York in the loss with 26 points and 20 rebounds, the Knicks’ top scorer shot just over 17% from the field (4-23), but did manage to hit all 16 shots from the charity stripe.
And while Anthony was busy building a house one ill-advised jumper at a time, Smith took advantage of playing time that he’s no longer guaranteed, and turned in his best performance of the season with 24 points for the Knicks who shot only 35% from the floor.
Clearly concerned after the loss, head coach Mike Woodson suggested that some changes to the starting line up may be in the near future after a horrid showing from both Ray Felton and Iman Shumpert resulted in a combined five points against the Clippers.
Adding to the laundry-list of concerns currently troubling to the Knicks, both Amare Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin sat out on Friday night after injuring their left ankles during New York’s loss to Indy and are expected to miss a minimum of two weeks.
But almost as if they’ve been handed a gift by a committee of mythical NBA-deciders, New York’s next six games (Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Charlotte Bobcats, L.A. Lakers, and Cleveland Cavaliers), are all scheduled against teams that all currently have records below .500.
Even with one last chance to right the ship however, the fact remains that prior to the start of their current homestand, New York was well aware that these eight games at MSG could easily decide the fate of their season, and in order to capitalize, you simply have to find a way to win.
Injured, disorganized, and reaching for a life-preserver, the Knicks are constantly surrounded by a headline-hungry sports media in the big apple, and are now in desperate need of a tone-setting win on Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets if they have any chance at all of turning this thing around before it’s too late.