Bitter Reality Replacing New York Knicks' NBA Playoff Pipe Dreams

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Bitter Reality Replacing New York Knicks' NBA Playoff Pipe Dreams
Harry How/Getty Images

You can only be disappointed if you have expectations to undershoot. It's about time the New York Knicks lowered theirs, from fringe Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls to NBA also-rans.

Unless, of course, there's some other, more hopeful lesson to take away from the Knicks' 127-96 shellacking at the hands of the laughable Los Angeles Lakers.

The Knicks were embarrassed in nearly every aspect by a threadbare bunch that played without Pau Gasol (vertigo), Steve Nash (leg), Kobe Bryant (knee) or any hope of so much as sniffing the postseason (a 24-46 record).

New York might've had some hope, however slim, of playing past mid-April had they not allowed the Lakers to score a season-high 127 points on a scorching 57.8 percent shooting—including a 51-point third quarter that doubled as both the most explosive in L.A.'s illustrious history and the most defenseless in New York's dubious one, per MSG Network's Tina Cervasio:

The Knicks might've had a shot had they not allowed the Lakers' hodgepodge of a bench to score an astounding 82 points. Maybe, just maybe, New York's playoff hopes would still be alive if it hadn't allowed the Lakers to convert more threes (18) than the Knicks attempted (15).

Even Carmelo Anthony, who led all participants in points (29) and rebounds (nine), was helpless to stop the disaster, which head coach Mike Woodson described in the simplest, most accurate terms imaginable, via The Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring:

That eruption of the underworld was New York's second in a row. The Knicks surrendered a 15-point lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a 106-100 loss on Sunday. At Madison Square Garden. While Kyrie Irving watched from the sideline in street clothes.

There's never a good time for any team to dive headfirst into the dumpster like the Knicks have in their last two games, but the timing of this downturn is particularly tragic.

For one, it comes on the heels of a season-best eight-game winning streak that, while accrued largely against the least of the East, began on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves and was extended to seven games with a 92-86 home win over the Indiana Pacers last Wednesday.

And of course, there's the not-insignificant fact that the streak didn't even carry the Knicks into the playoff picture. The Atlanta Hawks, currently seeded eighth in the East, won five in a row immediately after New York's spurt began.

Worse still, the Hawks had left the door wide open for the Knicks to enter. Atlanta has lost its last three in a row, just as New York's latest nosedive began.

Hence, the Hawks still enjoy a three-game cushion on the Knicks—with just 11 games left on the latter's schedule.

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This isn't the first time New York's fortunes have turned in such dramatic fashion this season, either. Back in January, the Knicks alternated five-game streaks before winning four in a row to finish out the month, only to lose three straight to start a February in which they won just twice in 13 tries.

Those bitter about the Knicks' most recent collapse can blame the team's nearly untenable position just outside the postseason in the awful East on those earlier failures and the endless bouts with injuries and on-court inconsistency that precipitated them.

They can blame it on a defense that's allowed a whopping 106.9 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com/Stats, amid constant confusion and an apparent lack of defined roles and principles. They also run an isolation-heavy offense that's ill-suited to a roster that thrived under the auspices of small ball in 2012-13, when the Knicks won 54 games and claimed the No. 2 seed in the East.

To be sure, the Knicks' playoff light hasn't dimmed completely. Three games doesn't constitute an insurmountable deficit, even this late in the game.

But the schedule against which the Knicks will have to make up that ground, as opposed to the one the Hawks have ahead, will make that task close to an impossible one.

Knicks vs. Hawks: Remaining Schedule
Games on the Road vs. Playoff Teams Opponent Winning %
Knicks 11 7 9 51%
Hawks 13 5 7 47%

ESPN and Playoff Status

That leaves New York with little more than the cold comfort of statistics, since the Knicks aren't officially out of the running just yet, and what shred of chemistry and cohesion remains in Woodson's fractured locker room.

In that case, it might be time for the Knicks to take their cue from MADtv—assuming they haven't already.  

 

Twitter: where Knicks fans can commiserate.

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