Yes, the loss to the Pacers was maddeningly frustrating. It wasn't just that the Knicks lost—they went out with a whimper, getting away from their game in Games 3 and 4 in Indiana and putting themselves in too deep of a hole.
But let's not forget where we came from. These are the Knicks, after all, playing basketball in late May; and after a decade of Isiah-fueled futility, that's something to celebrate. New York rekindled that MSG magic after far too long, and in the spirit of appreciation, let's take one last look back at the year that brought the Knicks back into the hearts and minds of New Yorkers.
Iman Shumpert's Dunk Sparks Game 2 Win over Indiana
The Knicks found themselves in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000, but an opening loss at home had the Garden crowd anxiously sitting on their hands for Game 2—that is, until Iman Shumpert almost blew the roof off. The Knicks had struggled to find any rhythm on offense in Game 1, but that would quickly change. New York sprinted out to a double-digit lead in the second quarter, a run capped by a ridiculous put-back stuff from Shump. He got an assist from the flat top, but his head still reached the rim as he flew down the line, cocked it back and threw it down. The dunk electrified MSG, and the Knicks would run away in the second half to even the series.
The Knicks Silence the Spurs in San Antonio to Prove They're For Real
The Knicks were the hottest team in the NBA to start the year, but they still had more than their fair share of doubters heading into an early-season matchup with the Spurs in San Antonio. New York found themselves in a double-digit hole in the second half, but came storming back to shock Tim Duncan and company. Tyson Chandler's ferocious dunk in the final minute put the nail in the coffin and put the league on notice: The Knicks were here to stay.
The Knicks opened up their 2012-13 season under a black cloud, the overwhelming damage from Hurricane Sandy dwarfing a basketball game. They canceled their opener against the Brooklyn Nets, but returned to the Garden against the defending champion Heat on November 2nd to try and at least distract the tri-state area, if only for a couple hours.
And boy, was this a fun distraction. The Knicks unleashed their new-look pick and roll/swing the ball offense on Miami, as Raymond Felton penetrated and kicked just about at will (he finished with 9 assists.) Steve Novak absolutely exploded from beyond the arc, as New York buried the Heat in a barrage of three-point shooting—an absurd 19-36, to be exact. 'Melo picked his spots, rebounded and passed well out of double-teams, and all of a sudden the Knicks had announced themselves as a legitimate contender and a far cry from the team that was embarrassed in the first round in 2011.
The Knicks closed the year just like they opened it—absolutely red hot. After an abysmal West Coast road trip (tip of the hat to Kurt Thomas), New York got on a roll, reeling off 11 straight wins heading into a matchup with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the West-leading Thunder.
Critics had written off the Knicks' streak as a product of questionable competition, but New York came into one of the toughest environments in the league and matched OKC shot for shot. They again caught fire from deep, shooting 15-34 from three-point land, and made just enough plays down the stretch to outlast the Thunder in a 125-120 shootout. Timely shooting from Jason Kidd and J.R. Smith, combined with continued ridiculousness from 'Melo (36 points on over 50 percent shooting despite not getting a call for the entire game), paced the Knicks, as New York gained even more credibility.
Though the Knicks started and ended hot, there was a whole lot of mediocre play in the middle that threatened to derail their season. Minus Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony due to injury, New York embarked on a West Coast road trip that could not have gone much worse—four straight losses, none of them particularly close. The team was battered, bruised and on the ropes, desperately looking for anything that could right the ship at least for a night.
That something was 40-year old Kurt Thomas, who just days earlier had suffered a fracture in his foot against the Clippers. The Knicks were thin in the frontcourt and Thomas knew it, so he gutted out what was perhaps the grittiest performance of his long career. Kurt contributed six points on 3-5 shooting, but the box score doesn't come close to telling the whole story—Thomas wound back the clock a decade, serving as a defensive force in the middle against Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. He was ferocious, blocking shots, denying post position and barking at the Utah crowd through it all as the Knicks came back for a 90-83 victory.
It was only a game, and Thomas was only a marginal contributor for the Knicks this year, but the guy literally sacrificed his career in order to stabilize New York's season. The win would spark a monster winning streak to close out the year and help the Knicks lock up the second seed in the East.
He may not have done it as consistently as Knicks fans would've liked, but 2012-13 saw a brand new 'Melo—one willing to bang down low and chip in on the glass, one who picked his spots, scored efficiently and passed extremely well out of double-teams. 'Melo went as the Knicks went, starting off strong, backsliding in the middle of the year only to finish red hot—and as Shane Battier can attest, a red hot 'Melo is just about unguardable.
From April 2nd to April 9th, 'Melo went on an absolutely absurd scoring tear in five Knick wins: 50 in a win in Miami, 40 against the Hawks, 41 against the Bucks and 36 apiece against the Thunder and Wizards. Over that span, Anthony shot 61 percent, a number that becomes even more ridiculous when you realize that most of those shots were contested jumpers. It spat in the face of conventional wisdom, every critic who said 'Melo couldn't score efficiently. He was a scoring machine during that span, to the point where you had to wonder if his jumpers would even hit rim when they left his hand.
In a season where the Knicks reached heights they hadn't seen in over a decade, it's only fitting that they had to go through their nemesis to get there. Prior to the 2012-13 season, the Knicks hadn't even won a game in Boston since 2006, and now they faced Paul Pierce and company in the first round of the playoffs. New York knew they had the better team, but every fan had a little voice in the back of their head reminding them that these were the Celtics, and we had seen this movie before.
But the Knicks never caved, even when a commanding 3-0 lead slipped to 3-2 and a huge Game 6 on that magical parquet floor. Even when a 27-point lead dwindled to four in the fourth quarter and the Boston crowd came unglued. This was New York's time, and not even Pierce and Kevin Garnett could get in the way. The Knicks were within a couple plays of sweeping the Celtics, and even if they let their foot off the gas, that Game 6 was as sweet as anything since the Finals run in 1999. The Knicks exorcised some serious demons that day, showing more grit and determination than a team whose grit had been its calling card.