Three Down, One to Go for Knicks

Published on: 27th April, 2013

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New York — The Knicks have not seen the glorified air of a playoff series win since 2000 but here we are, on the verge of a four-game sweep of the Boston Celtics after last night’s 90-76 wipeout of the Celtics in Boston.

Doc Rivers, Boston’s coach, had said after his team’s Game 2 loss at Madison Square Garden that the series doesn’t begin until a team is down 2-0 and headed back to its home court. By his definition, it appears the series has not only begun but it’s also just about ended, in the same game. All that’s seemingly left of this series is for the Knicks to keep doing what they’re doing since it looks like the Celtics have thrown in the towel.

Body language doesn’t lie. When you get hit in the head, figuratively or literally, it eventually shows. Ask Mark Sanchez, soon to be the former quarterback of the Jets. Watching Rivers and his players on the bench last night, it’s not a stretch to say these Celtics are cooked.

The Knicks are running on all cylinders right now. Whether that’s illusory because of the incompetence of the Rajon Rondo-less, rudderless Celtics offense or because of the Knicks defensive tenacity is up for debate. I’m leaning in the direction of the Celtics not having the offensive guns or a professional-grade point guard as the main excuse for their ineptitude.

Offensively, the Knicks are running circles around Boston, pick and rolling them to death, hitting threes, moving the ball around to the open man, and, leaning on Carmelo Anthony when all else fails. Anthony has been spectacular in this series, playing efficiently and most importantly, leading his team by example in all facets of the game. He’s rebounding, bodying up on the bigger Kevin Garnett, and trusting his teammates to make plays and hit shots in ways he never has demonstrated previously.

Knicks coach, Mike Woodson has been talking about “the journey” all season; his way of keeping his players’ eyes on the ultimate prize, an NBA championship. Woodson has never been viewed as one of the elite coaches in the league. More like a solid, competent X’s and O’s man and a bit of a psychologist to make the less than talented rosters he’s coached in the past feel better about themselves than they probably deserved to feel.

This year, Woodson has truly been masterful, managing the egos of the interesting characters who make up the 2012-13 Knicks. From helping Anthony to mature on the court to convincing J.R. Smith to be a sixth man to making every player, from Pablo Prigioni to Chris Copeland feel accountable and important to the team’s success. Woodson doesn’t play favorites and will get in the face of any player, regardless of how many zeros his paycheck says, who isn’t giving the effort to further the team’s goals.

Since no team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, it looks like this season-long “journey” is going to continue on to a next challenge against the winner of the Indiana-Atlanta series but make no mistake about it, in the back of the Knicks collective heads, they are gearing for the big enchilada, an Eastern Conference championship series with the Miami Heat.  Woodson’s job will be to get them to maintain their focus on step 2 before they get to step 3.

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