On the Brink
The Knicks go down 3-1 after a tough Game 4 loss that was memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Game Recap: Heat 109, Knicks 101
Like I’ve done a few times in this postseason, I’m diverting from the usual postgame format for this one. For as much as there were very specific things that went wrong at very specific times for the Knicks, and those things collectively added up to a dispiriting if not outright depressing loss, this is not a game that should be compartmentalized.
Nor should this series, for that matter.
Put aside the numbers and the percentages and the individual performances. One team is up three games to one because they have been there and done this, and the other has not.
That may seem like a cop out, and in some respects it is. There is a laundry list of errors, some more egregious than other, that the Knicks have made against the Heat from top to bottom. From the coach and the stars right on down to the role players, no one is absolved of blame for where New York currently finds themselves. Nobody has been great. Some have been far less than good. It all goes into the pot.
But on the whole, Game 4 crystalized a simple fact that has been building in its certainty with each passing quarter since last weekend. On this stage, a 44-38 Miami Heat team that lollygagged their way through the regular season and nearly went home in the play-in has risen their level of play, just like they did in marching to the Finals as a five-seed in 2020, and just like they did a year ago, coming within a made bucket of going back.
This is Miami’s happy place. It is where they feel most comfortable. Nothing about the big moment feels remotely large to them, and never was that more evident than last night, when they out-poised the Knicks in the first half, out-shot the Knicks in the third quarter, and out hustled the Knicks in the final frame. All the traits of an experienced team, right there on full display.
Not that experience by itself is a guarantor of anything. Just ask the Golden State Warriors, who have gone from defending champs to being down 3-1 themselves, also to a team that entered the postseason as a 7th seed. In the end, execution is what matters. Miami has executed well enough and often enough to be where they are. And the Knicks, well…have not.
For as frustrating as last night and this series has been as a whole, there is little shame in that dichotomy. Playoff failure is a right of passage for young teams in the NBA. Every eventual champion had to go through it at least once and often several times. Even in this postseason, the Cavs, Kings and Grizzlies are fine examples of young teams who succumbed to pressure at the worst times and in the most uncharacteristic of ways.
Unlike those teams, of course, the Knicks are still alive, albeit in a position that fewer than five percent of teams in NBA history have come beck from.
(Well, it’s actually closer to 10 percent if we’re being technical and accounting for the possibility of two home games out of the three straight that must be won.)
Even so, the odds are long. Far worse is that New York’s season-long formula has been shot to smithereens. Again though, April and May are a time when regular season formulas routinely blow up in a cloud of smoke. Such was the case last night.
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