The Miami Heat still need to win two more games before they can officially deliver the knockout punch that would end the New York Knicks’ season, but starting forward Amar’e Stoudemire might have thrown the blow that realistically could have ended things for both himself and his team sooner than expected.
Thanks to an impulsive and frustrated Stoudemire, the latest turn in a rocky, rollercoaster season for the Knicks is the most bizzare of all – one that involved a real pane and the glass.
Moments after the Heat’s 104-94 Eastern Conference quarterfinal Game 2 victory which gave second-seeded Miami a commanding 2-0 lead over seventh-seeded New York, Stoudemire left America Airlines Arena with his left hand in a cast and his left arm in a sling after taking his frustrations of the Knicks’ defeat out on the glass casing that was protecting a fire extinguisher in a hallway outside the New York locker room.
If Stoudemire was trying to get to the fire extinguisher to put out the blistering Heat, cutting his hand – and simultaneously, the Knicks’ chances of getting back in the series – certainly wasn’t the way to do it.
Nor would it have been the way that interim head coach Mike Woodson would have wanted Stoudemire (who finished with 18 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the field and seven rebounds) to attack the glass on Monday night.
However, it also wasn’t the first time that Stoudemire, in his second year with the Knicks after nine superstar seasons in Phoenix (and one more last year with New York), cost his new team by doing something imprudent with glass involved to injure himself in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Last season, Stoudemire was largely ineffective for the remainder of New York’s first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics after he hurt his back in warm-ups prior to the Knicks’ Game 2 loss in Boston, when he tried to tap on the glass backboard with his left hand and dunk with his right .
New York was swept in that series, and could now be on the verge of suffering a similar postseason exit, as Stoudemire is likely to miss Game 3 on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden in New York (tip-off at 7pm ET) and quite possibly the rest of the series, or the season, should the Knicks pull off the unthinkable and rally to beat the Heat four times to win the series.
At this point though, even one New York victory over Miami seems as likely as a human hand ever winning a battle against a glass pane.
Stoudemire’s self-induced injury further decreased the slim odds of that happening, as New York is already without two other key pieces in starting point guard Jeremy Lin and blossoming rookie combo guard Iman Shumpert, along with backup point guard Baron Davis (12 points, six assists, three turnovers), reserve forward and defensive specialist Jared Jeffries (no points, three rebounds in just 3:34) each playing hurt.
Shumpert is gone for the next six to eight months after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus in Miami’s Game 1 blowout win, but Lin worked out for the first time in several weeks prior to Game 2, and he has a small chance of returning for either Game 3 or Game 4 (also in New York).
If Lin isn’t back until Game 4, it could be too late to help save the Knicks from setting an NBA record for playoff futility. New York’s Game 2 loss stretched its postseason losing streak to an even dozen, matching the Memphis Grizzlies’ record for consecutive playoff losses.
Memphis was swept in the opening round of the playoffs in three straight years, from 2004-2006. Meanwhile, in addition to Boston’s sweep of the Knicks last year, New York was also swept in the first round by New Jersey in 2004, and lost the last two games of a best-of-five series against Toronto in 2001.
Although the Knicks are halfway toward being swept away again, they showed vast improvement and a lot more fight over their 33-point loss to the Heat in Game 1 on Saturday in Miami.
The Heat outscored the Knicks by just three points in each of the first three quarters, and by only one in the final period.
Star forward Carmelo Anthony scored 21 of his game-high 30 points (to go along with a game-high nine rebounds) in the first half points to keep New York to within 53-47 by halftime after a 16-4 Miami run gave the Heat an 18-10 lead with four minutes left in the opening quarter.
Each time the Knicks would make a push and seem poised to challenge the Heat, they would fall further back with Miami providing an answer.
A 12-4 Miami run opened a 67-56 cushion midway through the third quarter, and New York closed to within 72-68 on center Tyson Chandler’s third dunk (Chandler had 13 points and seven rebounds) of the game with 1:37 left in the third quarter, but the Heat scored the next six points and ultimately took a 78-69 lead into the final period.
Point guard Mario Chalmers (13 points, six assists) went on a personal 6-1 run to begin the fourth quarter and give Miami an 84-71 lead, and New York wouldn’t get back to within a single-digit deficit the rest of the way.
Guard J.R. Smith’s 13 points off the bench gave the Knicks five scorers in double figures, but the Heat surpassed that with six double-digit scorers, led by their trio of stars, guard Dwyane Wade (25 points) and forwards Chris Bosh (21 points) and LeBron James (19 points).
The Knicks matched the Heat’s 38 field goals (in four more attempts, 77-73), but Miami made more three-pointers (the Heat shot 9-for-21 from behind the arc; the Knicks, 5 of 15) and more free throws (Miami was 19 of 27, New York was 13-for-19 at the foul line).
The loss marked the first time that New York lost consecutive games under Woodson, who guided the Knicks to an 18-6 finish to the regular season after he took over for ex-coach Mike D’Antoni, who left with New York mired in a six-game losing streak that dropped the Knicks to 18-24.
One thing that the Knicks might be able to count on over the next two games of the series is their 11-1 home record since Woodson became the team’s head coach, however the lone defeat was a loss to Miami on April 15th.
A regretful Stoudemire tweeted after the game, “I am so mad at myself right now, I want to apologize to the fans and my team, not proud of my actions, headed home for a new start.”
Unfortunately for Stoudemire and the Knicks, that start, in terms of being back in the Knicks’ starting lineup, likely won’t come as New York takes the floor in Game 3.
Instead, much like workers who were gathering the shards of glass outside the Knicks’ locker room, New York, after surviving a lockout-induced, shortened pre-season, roster upheaval, a head coaching change, several key injuries and more, must somehow find a way to pick up the pieces.