New York Knicks: Looking Back at the Top 10 Moments of 2012

Ciaran Gowan@@CiaranGowanContributor IIIDecember 29, 2012

New York Knicks: Looking Back at the Top 10 Moments of 2012

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    It had its ups and downs, but 2012 was a year to remember for the New York Knicks.

    After a decade of futility, 2012 was the most important year in recent Knicks history and it provided us with some iconic moments that will live long in the memory.

    From Linsanity to the franchise's first playoff victory in years, there have been so many memorable moments in the year behind us.

    Based on a range of factors including their significance and the pure excitement they triggered, let's go through the top 10 best things that happened in the Mecca of basketball this past year.

10. Mike Woodson Has His Interim Tag Removed

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    Though at the time some were sceptical about the move, hoping that the Knicks would instead go after Phil Jackson, the decision to keep Mike Woodson on as head coach was one of the best the franchise has made in years.

    After taking over from Mike D'Antoni during a time of crisis in the 2011-12 season, Woodson steadied the ship and led the team to the playoffs, all the while helping J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony to improve as all-around players.

    Woodson clearly had a great relationship with his team, and after the disappointing D'Antoni tenure the franchise needed someone they could trust moving forward.

    The Knicks are a franchise that has always wanted to make headline-grabbing moves, but the decision to go with continuity and someone who had quietly proved his worth was clearly the right one.

    With the Knicks looking strong going into 2013, Woodson's extension has been the most influential move the team made this year. And that's saying something in a year when they made so many additions to the roster.

9. Carmelo Anthony Makes His First All-Star Appearance as a Knick

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    It wasn't a surprise to see Carmelo Anthony lining up for the Eastern Conference in February, but it was still great to see for any Knicks fan.

    Sure, the All-Star game may not be the most important event of the NBA season, but it was confirmation that the Knicks had acquired a truly elite player from the Denver Nuggets.

    Melo ended up with 19 points and nine rebounds in the game. It wasn't his performance that was memorable, but rather the fact that the Knicks had their second All-Star starter in two seasons, after Amar'e Stoudemire had made it in 2011.

    The pair are the only two All-Star starters the Knicks have had since the days of Patrick Ewing, so it acted as a symbol of the franchise's return to relevance.

8. J.R. Smith's Two Game-Winners

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    This one isn't a single moment, but rather two very similar and equally great moments.

    In what has been a great 2012-13 season so far for the Knicks, J.R. Smith has hit two game-winners in a three-week span against the Charlotte Bobcats and the Phoenix Suns.

    Other than the sheer difficulty of both shots, what was really impressive is that Smith was in both cases forced to take the shot in the absence of Carmelo Anthony, the team's undisputed closer.

    J.R.'s clutch play shows you just how deep this Knicks roster is and that, as long as he isn't out for too long, the team can survive even without their early-season MVP.

    You can re-live both shots here and here.

7. Knicks Destroy Heat in 2012-13 Season Opener

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    When the season opener against the Nets in Brooklyn was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy, the NBA was robbed of what could have been a truly great way to start the season.

    But for Knicks fans, the team's performance in their eventual opener against Miami more than made up for the disappointment of missing out on the battle of the boroughs.

    In a performance that put the league on notice, the Knicks came out all guns blazing and blew out the defending champs with a truly dominant performance.

    Led by Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks were hot from outside the three-point line—as they have been all season—and it was too much for LeBron James and company to handle.

    With the Knicks now looking like one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference, this game was a sign of things to come in the first third of the season.

6. Knicks Win in San Antonio, Prove They Are for Real

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    When the Knicks opened the season undefeated through the first six games, there were still questions as to whether or not they were truly for real.

    But the Knicks put all of those questions to bed in a win over the tough San Antonio Spurs, which took place in the fortress that is the AT&T Center.

    With a poor performance from Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks called upon someone else to step up and lead the team to victory. Raymond Felton duly obliged, silencing his own critics in the process.

    Along with some great team defense, Felton's 25 points was enough to get it done and confirm the Knicks' status as a much-improved team on the previous season.

    The Knicks went on to lose the next night against the Memphis Grizzlies, but the significance of that win in San Antonio cannot be ignored.

5. Linsanity Begins

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    It's easy to forget with how well the Knicks have been doing without him, but the emergence of Jeremy Lin was one of sport's biggest stories in 2012.

    An early-February game against the New Jersey Nets was where it all started. The Knicks stood at 9-15, having lost the first two games of a back-to-back-to-back. Put simply, the team was in disarray.

    Enter Jeremy Lin.

    After impressing in limited minutes in their previous game, Mike D'Antoni decided to give Lin a chance in the first quarter. After all, he had pretty much exhausted every other option at this point.

    Lin wasn't going to waste this rare chance to prove himself on the big stage, scoring 25 and leading the Knicks to a much-needed victory.

    What ensued was a seven-game win streak that will live long in the memory, as Lin continued to dominate despite injuries to several key teammates.

4. Linsanity Reaches Peak with Unbelievable Win vs. Lakers

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    Going up against a team as talented as the Lakers with your two stars out with injury, you're always going to be considered a heavy underdog.

    But the underdog story is exactly what made Linsanity so special, and no other game personified that more than this win over LA.

    Behind his highest-scoring game of the season—a 38-point outing—Lin led the Knicks to their fourth straight victory, with the team inching ever-closer to the .500 mark.

    Lin did everything that night—he scored, he played good defense and he made his teammates better—but it was still a shock for that to be enough to topple Kobe Bryant and company.

    After some great clutch play in the fourth quarter, the Garden was once again roaring with MVP chants for Lin, marking what was a truly magical night at MSG.

3. Melo Scores 43 in Overtime Thriller vs. Bulls

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    As amazing as Linsanity was, the Knicks' most exciting game in the 2011-12 season actually came when Jeremy Lin was injured.

    With both Stoudemire and Lin out, Carmelo Anthony had a dominant April, eventually winning the Player of the Month award for his fantastic play.

    It was on Easter Sunday, though, that Melo had his most impressive performance of the month, and arguably his most impressive in a Knick uniform to date.

    Melo made a statement in that game that this is truly his team, as he led the Knicks to victory with his 43 points.

    It took overtime to get the job done, but that only added to the excitement, as Anthony tied the game in regulation with a late three and eventually sank the game-winner from the same spot.

2. Tyson Chandler Wins Defensive Player of the Year Award

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    When Tyson Chandler signed with the Knicks in December 2011, he took on the near-impossible task of single-handedly turning one of the NBA's worst defenses into one of the best.

    After somehow doing so—along with a helping hand from Mike Woodson and Iman Shumpert—it was only right that he went on to win the league's Defensive Player of the Year award.

    Chandler spent the season holding down the paint for the Knicks. Not only could he guard his own man and play great help defense, he managed to change the entire defensive culture of the team.

    Not since the '90s had the Knicks focused so much defensively, and it was certainly a shock to see the likes of Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith contributing on that end of the floor.

    Chandler deserves a lot of credit for the team's defensive transformation, and there's no way the Knicks would have finished in the league's top five in terms of defensive efficiency without him.

1. Knicks Win Their First Playoff Game Since 2001

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    By the time the Knicks got to the playoffs, they were hurt and tired after having to fight from behind just to get there in the first place.

    To lose so convincingly in the series to the Miami Heat was disappointing, but considering the injury situation it was hard to ask much more.

    A long list of players including Amar'e Stoudemire, Jeremy Lin, Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis all missed at least one game in the series, with Tyson Chandler struggling to perform with the flu.

    So when the Knicks won game four against the eventual champions, with Stoudemire's lacerated hand wrapped up and Davis leaving the game on a stretcher, it was a small sign of the fight Mike Woodson had instilled in this team.

    More importantly, it was the team's first playoff victory in 11 years and it ended their 13-game losing streak in the postseason.

    As bad as the series loss was, that one victory was a milestone for how far the Knicks had come since signing Stoudemire in 2010. 

    The Knicks put together their big three not just to have regular season success, but postseason success too, and as minor as it was, this was their first taste of that.