"Did you hear the one about a playoff team running its offense through Jared Jeffries?"

Recap: Celtics 113, Knicks 96

I remember not so many days ago I mentioned that we should take this series for what it is: an outside chance at an upset, sure, but mostly a reward to us fans after so many years of embarrassment, an official proclamation that the Knicks are back.  I wrote that we should keep the negativity to a minimum and revel in the glory of playoff basketball and a national spotlight.

We all see what a bunch of crap that was, right?  Can we go back to bitching and moaning now?  Oh, good.

I think you’ll agree that it isn’t the losing; we could’ve watched our team lose four tough games straight up and walked away frustrated but content.  It’s not the refereeing either; game one was sketchy but still came down to shot-making at the end, and I thought last night’s refs were horrendous both ways, but this series won’t be remembered for the refs.

No, to me it’s the fact that we were promised playoff basketball and haven’t really gotten it because of the injuries.  The Knicks were mostly healthy in game one, but I feel like these last two games have been taken from me, like some playoff basketball oasis that just faded into thin air as I knelt to drink.  All I wanted, personally, was the chance to watch my team strut its stuff against the best, and if it wasn’t good enough, so be it – we’ll regroup, get ready for the draft, take all summer to talk about signing Earl Barron again, etc.  Instead we’re going to walk away from this series not knowing if this team’s best was good enough, because we hardly got to see it.

I wanted to see my team, but it feels like I’m watching a different team.  Hell, we are watching a different team, different players and all.  Does the national audience realize the roles that Jared Jeffries and Roger Mason played for this team?  Do they understand that Bill Walker took regular DNP-CD’s and spent weeks out of the regular rotation, even after the Carmelo trade?  Do Boston fans think the Knicks’ entire offense is to get the ball down low to Jeffries and let him make a play?

There’s no one to blame here (least of all Mike D’Antoni, but that’s a topic for the offseason), and if anything I take solace in that it’s probably killing Amar’e that he can’t be out there in full force.  He took it upon himself this season to bring New York hoops back, and right at the tipping point was suddenly unable to help the team.  There aren’t many teams who have a guy like that, and as a fan I’m grateful to have someone who’s even close to as frustrated with all this as I am.  As for other silver linings, I’m sort of happy that Chauncey Billups still hasn’t done anything to get his option picked up, although I still feel like I’m alone in that sentiment.

It’s all a shame, really, and woe is us, etc.  I’ll try to leave this with a positive thought.  I’m here in Boston, site of the 2004 Red Sox comeback against the Yankees, where the one prevailing thought after that series was, “If they were going to break the curse, it had to happen in the most ridiculous possible way.”  The Knicks don’t have an 86-year curse to deal with, but I’d say they packed as much ill will into one decade as any team in history.  Maybe this is how it has to end.

And if they get swept on Sunday, well, I already feel like this series never happened at all.

  • With Billups out and Stoudemire hobbled, it’s tough to criticize Mike D’Antoni’s tactics, but the one bone I have to pick concerns the use of Landry Fields.  If ever a player showed his coach he just couldn’t afford have him on the court, Landry Fields did it to D’Antoni over the first two games of this series.  And yet, there he was, left at sea time and again as Ray Allen never seemed to come within ten feet of his defender.  Obviously Allen and Pierce have shot too well to be covered by anybody, but to me it’s become axiomatic that the best answer is Jeffries on Rondo, Douglas chasing Allen, and Fields sitting.
  • A friend and I had the same thought at the same time just before tip-off: why does every TNT game feel like Monday Night Football, and every ESPN game feel like preseason?  Something about ESPN’s coverage creates as little drama as possible, and it isn’t the announce team.  One specific example: during last night’s pregame ceremonies, as both teams lined up and the MSG PA announcer intoned his classic, “WELCOME to Madison Square Garden…” as the crowd rose to its feet and screamed its collective face off for playoff ball at MSG…ESPN cut to a meaningless studio segment where Chris Mullin, whose next gig will be a bit role in a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest remake, droned for five minutes about nothing in particular.  We didn’t see the MSG floor again until the opening tip.
  • So Anthony Carter comes in, the Knicks nearly tie the game after their horrible start, and we don’t see him again the rest of the game?  What is it about Roger Mason that makes him a better option than anyone else on the squad?  Maybe it’s his unwillingness to shoot open threes even though it’s the one thing he was brought in to do.
  • Seen a few people complain about the Knicks’ getting abused on the glass, but when Pierce and Allen don’t miss, it’s pretty tough to win the rebounding battle.  Honestly, I feel like the reflexive sound bite for defending every superstar in the league is, “Turn him into a jump-shooter.”  LeBron, Wade, even Kobe Bryant…make him a jump-shooter!  What, then, to do with Allen and Pierce?  Hope they miss, is my best guess.  They do miss, right?  Statistics tell me they do – more often than not, in fact! – and if we’re making a case for the Knicks to win game four, it’s that the Celtics have still been awfully sloppy with the ball and their shooters just can’t keep up this ungodly pace.

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