Snake Bitten in South Beach

BY CHAYIM TAUBER

The New York Knicks took their talents to South Beach and quickly found that they are facing near impossible odds. After two games in Miami, the Knicks are down 2-0 in this first-to-four series and have found themselves utterly outclassed against the defending Eastern Conference Champions.

From a historical perspective, one might have thought the Knicks had destiny on their side, considering that the last time the Knicks played Miami in the playoffs, it was as the eight seed against the number one seed, also coming off of a strike-shortened season and with stars (Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell) who hadn’t quite jelled yet. Sound familiar?

Most Knick fans remember Allan Houston’s floater in the lane bouncing several times off the rim before dropping through en route to a Knick series victory and eventual finals run. The first two games have silenced even those optimists who believed that fortune may have been on the Knicks side.

The image of neophyte Iman Shumpert collapsing two steps beyond the halfcourt line, clutching his knee and howling in agony as his season ended due to an ACL tear was enough to silence even the few remaining optimists. The Knicks two defensive stalwarts in the post are both hobbled as well; Jared Jeffries’ on account of his knee and Tyson Chandler by the flu. Baron Davis has been bruised and banged up all season and Jeremy Lin has yet to return from his knee issues. No one was more frustrated than Amare Stoudemire.

The Knicks battled hard in game two refusing to play dead for the more talented Heat and making a serious run at winning. Stoudemire played a wonderfully efficient game pouring in 18 points on 6 of 9 shooting and hauling in seven rebounds in a losing effort. After the game, Amare assuaged his frustration by punching a glass case outside of the team locker room badly cutting his hand. The extent of the damage and the number of stitches needed to close the wound is still unknown but it is likely the Knicks will be without Amare for game three and possibly beyond.

“Snake-bitten” was how Carmelo Anthony described the Knicks right now and snake-bitten is right. The only healthy players the Knicks have suited up right now are Carmelo, the often invisible Landry Fields, the ancient Mike Bibby, and sharp-shooting bench warriors Steve Novak and J.R. Smith. That’s it.

The knock on Coach Mike Woodson in Atlanta was that he was incapable of successfully leading his team in the playoffs and that trend will continue this season in New York. His defensive players are all debilitated and his only viable scoring threat outside of Anthony decided to go Chuck Norris on a glass case. Realistically speaking, the Knicks postseason dreams ended the night the Magic beat the Bobcats to officially entrench the Knicks in the number seven seed and a first round matchup against Miami.

The long and short of it is this. Carmelo Anthony, the new Woodson-era Anthony, will make this a competitive series as best as he can. He will take it as a personal challenge and will defend, rebound, and shoot the Knicks into as competitive a series as can possibly be expected but it won’t be enough. The Knicks will lose this series in four games. A loss in five would be a victory.