Knicks Clinch First Playoff In Seven Years

Published on: 4th April, 2011

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New York – For a franchise that had not been in the NBA playoffs since 2004, it was a bit of a surprise to walk into tonight’s winning locker room at Madison Square Garden and not see any celebrating going on.

You see, something happened tonight in New York that has been as rare over the past decade or so as a Manhattan parking spot.

Your New York Knickerbockers clinched a playoff spot tonight when they defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden while the Charlotte Hornets were losing to the Washington Wizards.  And, there you had it, the Knicks second playoff clinching since 2001 was a fait accompli.

But, instead of raising a glass of Gatorade or perhaps, something stronger to celebrate their accomplishment, the coach, Mike D’Antoni and his players maintained a quiet, almost low-profile approach.

A good guess for their restrained emotions over the accomplishment probably emanated from a few realities about this team, as currently constructed. The men involved in the running of the day-to-day activities of this team, none of whom is named Jim Dolan, realize this is a highly imperfect team, especially for a good run in a playoff series. D’Antoni and his coaching staff know full well their owner’s anxiousness to get a second great scorer into the fold weakened this teams’ depth, bench strength, both it’s interior and perimeter defense, and its rebounding ability.

Playoff success is usually predicated on three elements of a basketball game: Being capable of running an efficient half-court offense, rebounding the basketball, and playing shut-down defense, especially in crunch time.

Unfortunately, the Knicks do not perform all that well at any of those key elements. What they can do is score in bunches, give up points in bunches, and because of their sheer lack of size, they cannot rebound the basketball. Not the formula they were looking for as they head towards the home stretch of this season, with just six games left for D’Antoni to prepare this team to face either the Boston Celtics or the Miami Heat.  

In other words, D’Antoni and his minions understand they have six regular season games left to turn this disparate group of two offensive geniuses, an aging point guard and a bunch of other guys into a playoff-ready machine. Nobody in that locker room thinks they’re ready for the playoff challenge, yet.

The good news for the Knicks is that their three key players and most recent acquisitions, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Chauncy Billups have all been there, done that in the playoffs. They’ve all gone deep into the tournament and Billups has won the ring as a member of the Detroit Pistons, then coached by former Knicks washout, Larry Brown.

“It  feels great..that was the goal we set at the start of the season,” said Stoudemire. “The plan was to make the playoffs. We did a great job…that mission is accomplished and now it is on to the next goal.”

D’Antoni gave much of the credit to Stoudemire during his post-game press conference.

“Amar’e  really led the charge this season,” D’Antoni said. “He led a group that was young and learning and took the brunt on his shoulders and showed them how to win and now we have to get ready for the playoffs.”

“We knew that this was a game that we needed to get,” Billups said. “This team had dominated us the whole season, that team is actually playing a lot better than their record looks like and this is probably the one team that can come in and say that they can beat us, because three times they beat us before. So we knew that this was a big game for us.”

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