New York Knicks: 10 of the Best and Worst Moments from the Month of March
What a month March was for the New York Knicks.
Following a February in which the team, the city and the nation was consumed with the phenomenon known as "Linsanity," it seemed improbable that the month of March could top or even approach the previous month in terms of drama.
Improbable doesn't mean impossible, though.
Regardless of whether or not you're a Knicks fan or hater, if you've followed the team's exploits in the month of March, you've seen an assortment of some of the most unlikely highs and lows.
Worst: March 4th in Boston
The Knicks won the final game of February. It was their first game after the All-Star break and the Knicks fell behind early in the game at home against Cleveland. They roared back to win the game with a dominant second half and then had three days off before their first game of March in Boston on Sunday afternoon, March 4th.
The Sunday game in Boston was close. The Knicks had a lead as large as 12 points, but in the end they were unable to muster the magic that came so easily to them in February.
Jeremy Lin came up big toward the end of regulation to lead a comeback and send the game to overtime, but Lin's big plays on offense were negated by his getting torched on defense.
Rajon Rondo had a triple-double, registering an impressive stat line of 18 points, 17 rebounds and 20 assists.
The game wasn't a disaster but it was a tough loss, and it was also a harbinger of trouble to come.
Worst: March 9th in the New York Post
One thing about playing on a major professional sports team in New York: When things are going bad, don't expect too much support from the local media.
The New York Post threw some gasoline on the simmering blaze that was beginning to engulf the Knicks' season.
The column accurately pointed out that the Knicks were 2-5 since Anthony had returned from an injury just before the All-Star break.
It also featured a quote from Amar'e Stoudemire which raised concerns about the Knicks playing to their potential.
“You watch San Antonio,” Stoudemire said. “They don’t have nearly enough talent to compete with us. Our talent level, personnel, is off the charts. But what they do well is they keep the floor spaced and make sure those guys execute the plays. That’s something we’ve got to do, keep the floor spaced and keep the ball moving and get everyone involved.’ - New York Post, March 9th, 2012.
The Knicks were now mired in a losing streak and beginning to sound off on internal problems to the press. Things weren't good, and there was room for them to get even worse.
Worst: March 9th in Milwaukee
Following the loss to the Celtics, the Knicks went on a road trip to Texas. There they lost two games in two nights to Dallas and San Antonio.
The losses weren't good, but losses to those two teams on the road on back-to-back nights really wasn't something that too many teams would find shocking.
The Knicks had an off night on Thursday and traveled to Milwaukee for a must-win game against the Bucks.
Milwaukee was the team that the Knicks were directly competing with for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
The Knicks entered the game 18-21, while Milwaukee was sitting at 15-24.
New York played a solid first half but came out flat in the third quarter. That carried over into the fourth quarter, and the Knicks were down by 15 points with 7:28 remaining in the game. The team mounted a comeback, but it was not enough to overcome the deficit they had accumulated.
The 119 points were the most points the team had allowed in a regulation game this season. That, of course, only added to the Knicks' reputation for soft defense.
The blame for defensive ineptitude often fell on the shoulders of head coach Mike D'Antoni. Those shoulders were beginning to show signs of slumping.
Worst: March 12h in Chicago
The final score of 104-99 didn't tell the full story of how this game was lost by the New York Knicks. The score was close—the effort was not.
The Knicks played listless basketball at times, making the final margin that much more frustrating. This wasn't a case of a team bowing out of a blowout; this was a case of a team that looked uninterested in exerting enough effort to win a tough road game that was winnable. Or in some cases, a team simply frustrated playing alongside each other.
Anthony had another inefficient game, didn’t get the ball much in the fourth quarter, taking just one shot until the final minute. His body language was bad as he finished with 21 points on 8-of-21 shooting. On one play in the fourth, Anthony posted up, but Landry Fields fed Lin, who shot it. Anthony clapped his hands in disgust. — New York Post 3/13/12
The losing streak was now at six games and the pressure to reverse the direction of the team was mounting not just on the players but on ownership and upper management as well.
Worst: March 13th and 14th
The aftermath of the loss to the Bulls was a sudden and dramatic few days of intense scrutiny. There were rumors of a major rift that had developed between Carmelo Anthony and Mike D'Antoni.
According to a person familiar with his thinking, Anthony’s disillusionment stems most from a belief coach Mike D’Antoni and interim GM Glen Grunwald do not trust him. He is surprised that after all the Knicks gave up to trade for him, he has not been asked for more input on personnel decisions, as Deron Williams has with the Nets. — New York Post 3/14/12
Chris Broussard of ESPN weighed in with his own column detailing chaos behind the scenes in the Knicks' locker room.
"Half the team is trying to do what coach says and the other half is doing something different," one source said. "Then it spills over to the defensive end because players are (ticked) off about somebody taking a bad shot."
As the rumors and accusations piled atop one another, on Wednesday, March 14th the proverbial damn finally broke.
Head coach Mike D'Antoni abruptly resigned following the morning shoot around.
"After speaking with Mike this morning, we mutually agreed that it would be best for the organization if he did not continue in his role as coach of the Knicks," Jim Dolan, executive chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company, said in a statement. "Mike is a class act and true professional and we have appreciated his honesty, commitment and years of service to the organization." — USA Today 3/14/12
In under 48 hours the Knicks endured an onslaught of controversy and rumors that resulted in the team being torn apart in the middle of the season and in the thick of the playoff hunt as well.
Best: Portland at the Garden on March 14th
Mike D'Antoni not only resigned midseason, he quit on a game day. More importantly, he quit on a game day in which the Knicks were hoping to snap a six-game losing streak.
The opponent on Wednesday, March 14th was the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers were another downtrodden team and were mired in their own losing streak. A loss at home to Portland may very well have signaled a complete collapse for the Knicks and an ensuing long summer for the team and its fans.
That's not what happened.
The Knicks came out and looked like a completely different team. They ran on the Blazers, dunked on the them and shot—and hit—a ton of three pointers (19 in all) as they blew out Portland by more than 40 points.
It was exactly what the Knicks needed, and it changed the entire mood surrounding the team.
Best: March 17th at Indiana
After the Portland game the Knicks had back-to-back contests against the Indiana Pacers.
Indiana is one of the better teams in the East, and the two-game tilt called for a night game in Madison Square Garden on Friday, March 16th, followed by a game in Indiana the next night.
The Knicks won the first match, but the second game was expected to be tougher. It wasn't, as the Knicks put together a balanced team effort and pulled ahead for good with an impressive 25-14 fourth quarter.
I just think it's we have all 15 guys right now on the same page buying in, and that's the biggest thing, is that we're playing together. I don't think there's any major changes philosophically from a coaching standpoint — Jeremy Lin via ESPN.com 3/17/12
The Knicks were officially on a roll and were aiming to increase the three-game winning streak.
Best: In Philadelphia on March 21st
The Sixers were the talk of the league after a red-hot start to the season, but Philadelphia had cooled off as of late. That hadn't stopped the Sixers from handing the Knicks a loss in Madison Square Garden back on Sunday, March 11th.
So when the Knicks headed south for a rematch just over one week removed from a tough home loss, they were looking to make a statement. That's what they did.
New York out-rebounded the Sixers by a 47-39 margin. They also managed to make nine more free throws than the Sixers, who were out-muscled on their own home court.
This was an ugly game. The Knicks had a lower field goal percentage, less assists and were only 2-of-13 from three-point range.
It was exactly the type of game the Knicks would have been expected to lose under former head coach Mike D'Antoni. They didn't though, and that's one of the best signs of the past month.
Best: March 26 at Home Against Milwaukee
Earlier tonight, playing their No. 1 competitor for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks pulled off a huge win.
Would anyone have expected the Knicks to beat a tough opponent playing without both Jeremy Lin and Amar'e Stoudemire?
That's what the Knicks did tonight. Once again the game was ugly, once again the Knicks defense put the team over-the-top and led them to an eventual victory.
The Knicks held the Bucks to only 28 second half points. Milwaukee shot a paltry 36.5 percent and the Knicks beat Milwaukee on the boards 54-41.
The win gave New York a two-and-a-half-game cushion over Milwaukee in the race for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.
Worst: March 26, the Amar'e Injury
Just when things seemed to be going well for the Knicks something not just bad but potentially very bad pops up.
In this case, it's an injury. And it's an injury to a key player that could sideline him for the remainder of the season.
Amar'e Stoudemire, one of the emotional leaders of the Knicks as well as one of their best players, might now be lost for the rest of the season due to a bulging disk in his lower back.
This would be huge blow for the fortunes of the Knicks, who could probably make the playoffs without Amar'e but would stand little chance of advancing without his presence in the lineup.
The month of March started poorly, got progressively worse and then seemed to have turned around, but the injury to Stoudemire might end up making this March one for Knicks' fans to forget.