The New York Knicks versus the Boston Celtics was pegged by some to be a great series. The incredible Knick duo of PF Amar'e Stoudamire and SF Carmelo Anthony against PF Kevin Garnett, SF Paul Pierce and the veteran Boston Celtics. Well, I guess all the hype didn't meet the play. The Knicks were swept by the Celtics and the off-season has begun for the Knicks.
For the Knicks, this is a disappointing ending. The offensive wizardry of Melo and Amar'e has been outstanding at times. Well, against the veteran Celtics, it seemed like they both couldn't get going at the same time. Melo got his points in three of the four games, but in the crucial third game, the Celtics were stuck to him like velcro, giving Melo fits. Amar'e just never seemed to be the same after the first game of the series. Some of that may have been the back injury, but the play of the Celtics defense surrounded him when he had even a sliver of an opening. This final three games had to be one of the toughest stretches that Amar'e has been through in his career.
When the Knicks went through their offensive ruts every game, it seemed like the Knicks couldn't find any consistency defensively. I'm not saying that they're a great defensive team, but when they needed stops, they could not come up with them. A prime example of that is Game 4. The Knicks fought their way back into the game, trimming the Celtic lead from twenty points to four. All the Knicks needed was a few stops to give them an opportunity to inch even closer. Instead, the Knicks give up three straight baskets to the Celtics while they get shut down three straight possessions. That was the ballgame right there.
In the end, the veteran poise and clutch play of the Celtics overwhelmed the Knicks. Hopefully this series was a learning experience for the Knicks. They have plenty of cap space for next year with the expiring contracts and team options for some of their players. First thing they have to do is bring back PG Chauncey Billups. He was sorely missed after he injured himself early in this series. Next, the Knicks must acquire players that best complement their two superstars. And the biggest thing that must happen is the two superstars must take ownership of the team together. That means holding everyone, including themselves, accountable for their play at the defensive and offensive ends of the court. This team will only go as far as Melo and Amar'e lead it ultimately. So this off-season, they need to let this loss simmer and come back next year focused and ready to lead the Knicks back to where they both want to be: a championship level basketball team.