The Knicks? Not dead. But barely on life support.
The Mavs? At least most of them will have nice shiny rings when they get buried.
Both were bad last night, and if you were looking to watch a compelling and entertaining basketball game you could have done better by going down to the local Y and sitting on the top row of the bleachers. Sometimes there this sickening feeling when one wakes up on a Friday morning and says to oneself: “Damn, I hate it that I wasted a Thursday night like that.”
This is one of those days.
So do yourself a favor. Make other plans for 7:30 p.m. EDT Saturday, and 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Either that, or wear all black if you are a supporter of the two teams down 0-3 that will be playing at home. (Click here for the Heat-Knicks boxscore, and here for the Thunder-Mavs b0x.)
On to the obits.
Let’s begin with Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, who has been covering the Knicks for a decade and a half and is despised by the Knicks organization because they can’t figure out to way to keep him from being so good at his job. Is he reveling in their demise? No, he wasn’t, because he is a pro. But he told it like it is: “The Heat sucked the life out of Madison Square Garden and crushed the Knicks’ collective spirit with a defensive showing in the second half that was championship-worthy. And they did it behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who combined to outscore the Knicks 34-30 over the final two quarters. “Our bad offense,” J.R. Smith said, “created bad transition defense.” If the Knicks were ever going to make it a series, Game 3 was their chance. Neither LeBron nor Wade brought his A-game for the better part of three quarters. Plus, the Knicks held an 11-point second quarter lead. But with Anthony unable to find openings and/or knock down shots against the Heat for the third straight game, the Knicks lacked the offensive firepower to keep pace. Anthony scored a team-high 22 points but he did it by missing 16 of 23 shots. He’s shooting 22-for-64 in the series. “I wouldn’t say they shut me down,” said Anthony, who is 0-7 in playoff games with the Knicks. “I am missing shots that I would normally make. I am not worried about that. Do they make it tougher? Yeah . . . their defensive scheme is to stop me. They are basically making it hard on me out there.” Anthony, mostly defended by James and Shane Battier, said he heard the Heat bench yelling “keep beating him up” during the second half. And with players given more room to be aggressive in the playoffs, it was a sound strategy, especially with the Knicks missing three starters.”
Marc Berman over at the Post has been on the beat almost as long as Isola, which means he, too, has covered more than his share of Knicks playoff victories (Yes, there were victories once upon a time). Berman typically sesthe lass as half-full. Today? “Before a fired-up Garden crowd that never quit being loud until the final six minutes, the Knicks fought for most of three quarters but fell apart in the fourth as Anthony disintegrated and failed to lead a depleted roster to a big upset. With Anthony’s wire-to-wire dud performance highlighting a sickly offense that shot 31.9 percent, the Knicks set the NBA record with their 13th straight playoff loss. Their last playoff victory came April 29, 2001, when LeBron James was a high school sophomore in Akron. With Amar’e Stoudemire sitting on the bench in a beige suit and his arm in a sling, the Knicks got their doors blown off during a 29-14 fourth-quarter when a foul-plagued James rose up, continuing the Knicks’ playoff nightmare. James scored eight straight points to start the quarter and the Miami Dream Team cruised to an 87-70 victory and 3-0 series lead. The Knicks’ season could end in Game 4 Sunday at the Garden to mercifully end this first-round landslide. Anthony finished with 22 empty points on 7-for-23 shooting and five turnovers, dogged by Shane Battier. He is one loss away from being bounced out of the first round in eight of his nine seasons. Melo started hearing groans late in the fourth after one of his missed jumpers as the Garden wonders where its superstar hid his greatness.
And then there is Howard Beck over at the New York Times, who cut his teeth covering Shaq, Kobe and Phil at the start of the last decade before transplanting his family and becoming a full-fledged Brooklynite. Any positives from Beck? Fuhgettaboudit: ““We believe,” Anthony said, with as much conviction as he could muster. “Our heads are high, man. Our confidence is still high.” The Knicks’ actions told a different story. Only two other players — J. R. Smith and Tyson Chandler — spoke to members of the news media. Everyone else scattered as quickly as possible, most of them leaving before the locker room was open. LeBron James, after a relatively sedate three quarters, buried the Knicks with a personal 8-0 burst to open the fourth, as Miami turned a close game into a rout. James scored 17 points in the final period and finished with a game-high 32. Dwyane Wade added 20 points, and Mario Chalmers had 19 — including five 3-pointers, one more than the entire Knicks roster. The Knicks will try to extend the series Sunday, but the odds are staggering. Of the previous 99 teams to trail 3-0, 59 have been swept. Thirty others went down in five games.”
Again, the final game in the Heat-Knicks series is Sunday, barring an unlikely resurrection. Tickets will be available at a deep discount.
At least the Knicks will not have the inglorious distinction of being the first team eliminated. That team will likely be the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, who on Sunday can begin the process of moving forward with their plan to lure Deron Williams away from the Nets when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.
They’ve got about as much chance of playing into next week as Mariano Rivera has of pitching a ninth inning anytime soon.
First we turn to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, whose carer resume includes covering Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets back when they won consecutive championships. Sefko is about as Texan as they come (he orders his steak extrawell-done), and like most Texans he doesn’t mince words: “If this is all they’ve got, the Mavericks should do everybody a favor and fall on their sword Saturday night in Game 4. Don’t bother with the show of resolve. Too late for that now, because it’s just a matter of time until the Mavericks are dethroned and vacation begins. Getting humiliated on their home court while trying to fall back on a steady diet of jump shots against a team of better jump-shooters than they have, the Mavericks were pitchforked, 95-79, Thursday night by the Oklahoma City Thunder that showed they are the new beasts in the Western Conference. At least on this end of Interstate 35. The Mavericks built their playoff slogan around the catchy phrase: “All In.” The irony in that is thick, since management didn’t exactly go all-in when it came to retaining (or replacing) a championship team. And now, they are one game from being all-out. The Thunder is up 3-0 after Thursday’s dismantling of the Mavericks. Kevin Durant awoke from a relatively quiet first two games in Oklahoma and had 21 points at halftime, when the Thunder was ahead by nine. The lead grew to 75-57 after three quarters. The Mavericks were a combined 8-of-34 shooting from the field in the middle two quarters, dooming them to an embarrassing home loss.”
And then we have Dwain Price of the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram, another grizzled veteran of the NBA beat who was filing game stories on a Port-a-Bubble back when Mark Cuban was attending business classes at IU. Price is probably marinating fajitas already for his Sunday evening barbeque. No need to prepare for another drive up the I-35 to the OKC. His synopsis: “I don’t think we took a step forward as a team,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 17 points. “We took a step back.” The Mavs were several steps slower than the much quicker Thunder all night Thursday. OKC never trailed, the game was never tied, and the Thunder’s lead was never in any serious jeopardy. It was as if the Thunder came into the AAC, pulled up a couple of chairs, grabbed the remote control and made themselves right at home. Indeed, they acted like they owned the place. “It’s really tough to go down 0-3, but we’re going to keep fighting,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I thought even though we played bad, we competed well. “That’s hard to say when [the deficit is] in the 20′s. Until I look at the film and see otherwise, I like the way we’re battling.” The biggest showing for the Mavs was when they outscored the Thunder 10-0 – to end the game. But that came after OKC mounted a 95-69 lead with 4:52 left and sent many in the crowd of 20,640 scampering for the exits.
The Mavs’ faithful will be putting their Game 4 tickets up for sale, too, and those of you who want to make the southbound drive down I-35 to watch the Thunder waltz out of the first round can also buy tickets right inside enemy territory, right here.
Thankfully, tonight should bring some more compelling theater.
The Hawks-Celtics series, tied 1-1, moves to Boston. The Bulls-Sixers series, tied 1-1, moves to Philly. And the Lakers-Nuggets series, led 2-0 by El Lay, moves to the thin air of Denver. Want to know who is favored? Click here.