NEW YORK KNICKS - Grunwald's Geezers Run Out Of Gas.
MELO SCORES THIRTY-NINE, BUT KNICKERBOCKERS FALL IN SIX
What started out a few years ago with Stephon Marbury being nailed to the bench for a grossly under-manned Knicks team, ended Saturday night in Indiana's field house, as Donnie Walsh's Pacers dismantled the Knicks, eliminating them from this year's playoffs, four games to two. New York's off-season uncertainty starts....now.
The Indiana Pacers' executive man in charge sat quietly absorbed, triumphantly observing his newest creation defeat the team Jim Dolan hijacked from him. How does an NBA owner hijack his own team you ask? When Commissioner Stern orders him to hire Donnie Walsh in order to halt one of the league's marquee franchise's decade long free fall into basketball Tartaros. For with blind love, devotion and negligence, Jim Dolan allowed Isiah Thomas to put the Knickerbockers organization through hell.
Fast forward to the signing of Amare Stoudemire. Donnie Walsh did everything that needed getting done in order to gain salary cap relief, regardless of LeBron James' pending free agency. Personally, I felt securing Stoudemire was the owner's knee jerk reaction for failing to secure James, but more, a desperate last minute signing mandated by Dolan before the market closed. If the Phoenix Suns were only willing to offer Amare three years, I had, and still have zero reason to believe Donnie Walsh wanted to pay him a day longer or a dollar more, especially under an uninsurable contract. Only owners do that, not GMs, and certainly not the Donnie Walsh of a reasonable mind.
Fast forward to the Carmelo Anthony trade. In direct conflict with Dolan's preference for the star system, Donnie Walsh effectively got fired because he tried building a team. When Melo trade talks between Denver and the Nets picked up , Jim Dolan succumbed to the threat of direct competition from Brooklyn, and swooped in to kidnap Anthony. Shortly thereafter, Dolan pushed Walsh out the door.
Let's be clear - all things considered, the Knicks do not reach the playoffs in consecutive seasons without Donnie Walsh's prior ground work, or without Carmelo Anthony for that matter. These days, Donnie walks needing the assistance of a cane, but the man knows how to run an organization. As it pertains to Saturday night, the Indiana Pacers made it to the Eastern Conference Finals before the Knicks did - two franchises that began at the same starting line after the Patrick Ewing and Reggie Miller days passed them by. Donnie Walsh had a hand in the Pacers of that era, and will now face the Miami Heat - the team, and an era, the Knicks are still chasing ever since Pat Riley split town via fax.
Game Six Final
If the Knicks were guilty of anything, the post-Walsh Knicks stamped their luggage with NBA Finals stickers months ago, not coincidentally, around the same time gas mileage on present GM Glen Grunwald's Geezers started registering true. During the season's most important minutes, in the team's most important games, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby, Jason Kidd, and Kenyon Martin were all out of leaded gasoline.
The Knicks were surviving Game Six largely on the strength of Melo's usual star performance and Iman Shumpert's hot hand. Was Iman really the plan? Hardly. Truth is, no one showed up in support of the team's star. Ray Felton scored two points - Tyson Chandler had two points - Pablo Prigioni had six points - Kenyon Martin had five points - Camby and Novack did not play. And lastly, Jason Kidd failed to score a point in any of the six games - not one.
Fact is, the Pacers represented a horrible match-up for the Knicks. Tyson Chandler was flat out deleted by Roy Hibbert inside. Hibbert dropped twenty-one points on Chandler, pulled down twelve rebounds, and blocked five shots, one of which became an instant ESPN classic against Melo. How much of Roy's performance was due to Chandler's bulging disc problem is still, and may remain unknown. Roy Hibbert however, was only the beginning. Lance Stephenson scored twenty-five, and pulled down another ten rebounds. For the game, Indiana cleaned up 43-36 on the glass.
The Pacers also scored fifty-two of their 106 points in the paint, while the Knicks only managed twenty. By relentlessly pounding the Knicks interior, they additionally put themselves in the bonus early. Indiana pummelled the Knicks from the line, sinking thirty-four of forty-six attempts. The Knicks only made it to the stripe eighteen times. Tyson Chandler was one of three Knicks to foul out of the game. Shumpert and Kenyon Martin joined him. Carmelo Anthony ended the game with five fouls.
J.R.Smith contributed fifteen points and ten rebounds an otherwise nice game. Let's be honest though. Ever since his ill-fated elbow and suspension in round one, his game has effectively disappeared.
When Mike Woodson took over as head coach, he made it very clear that Carmelo Anthony was his star player, clearly in line with the Dolan Doctrine, and that he was going to ride Melo like a mule for all he's worth. Compared to Mike D'Antoni, that was probably the smart way to go. For the first three quarters of the game, Melo took care of business, with Shump and Smith providing points as well. Carmelo finished with a game-high thirty-nine points, pulled down seven rebounds and had two assists.
What of the fourth quarter then - closing time? Melo tied the game 81-81 with a layup in the last seconds of the third quarter. So, this game was there for their taking. But after allowing thirty-four points in the third quarter, Indiana clamped down on defense, limiting the Knicks to just eighteen points in the final twelve minutes. Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith both only shot two of seven from the field during the quarter. And in a game in which Iman Shumpert had already scored nineteen points, and was five of six from beyond the three-point line, he failed to take a single shot in the fourth quarter. That's hard to understand. Ponderous!
On the heels of an abrupt ending such as this, there will be those looking to cast blame. Which ever way you size this up, the local story will read how a bunch of no-names overcame Carmelo Anthony. Did Melo come up small in crunch time? Has he reaffirmed his playoff legacy? Did Mike Woodson mismanage the Knicks this series? Was the Knick relying too heavily on Glen Grunwald's geriatrics a huge mistake? Does Ray Felton get a chunk of blame, who, as the primary point guard, failed to orchestrate? Is there more?
In the immortal word of former Knicks broadcaster Marv Albert - YES!