2011 NBA Playoffs: New York Knicks Play with Heart
Carmelo and the Whalers.
That's all it was for the New York Knicks Tuesday night.
On Sunday, the Knickerbockers were feeling positive going into a series with the aging Boston Celtics. That optimism was primarily due to the star power that headed the Knicks: Chauncey Billups, Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.
Yet halfway through the second quarter, Carmelo Anthony was the only one left standing.
But you know what they say: when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
If the Knicks proved one thing Tuesday, it's that they're tough.
However, they proved more than one thing. More importantly, they proved that they have heart.
It starts with Carmelo Anthony. As soon as Amar'e went down (who also showed some heart by admirably attempting to play with back spasms), every Knicks fan gave up hope. But Carmelo wouldn't go down as quietly.
He made it his business to put the Knicks on his back. He knew it was his team and that he had to take over, and that's exactly what he did.
'Melo took 14 more shots than anyone else on the Knicks, and he simply would not be denied for the entire second half. He refused to leave the game, playing every minute after Stoudemire's exit, and he sort of became the point guard facilitating the offense.
On the glass, he just showed his pure heart. Despite being much smaller than several of the Celtics he battled for rebounds, he grabbed 17 of them, including five on the offensive end.
However, Carmelo wasn't the only Knick who wore his heart on his sleeve on Tuesday.
Bill Walker was dreadful all game. He simply did not have it on that night. Walker was 0-for-11 from the field, yet there's a reason he logged the third-most minutes on the team.
He simply wanted it more than everybody else. Despite standing just 6' 6", he managed to grab eight rebounds, and despite shooting horribly all night, he had the best plus-minus on the team.
That's no coincidence. Walker's effort made the team better.
And even when he got a technical for body slamming Ray Allen, Knicks fans didn't mind because his heart was in the right place. He was ready to run through a brick wall if that's what it took.
Jared Jeffries showed some serious heart as well. For nearly the entire game, Jeffries was the biggest man the Knicks had on the court. And standing 6' 9", that ain't saying much.
However, he never let his size stop him from throwing his body around. Much of the second half was played with Jeffries, Carmelo and three guards.
He was almost single-handedly given the responsibility of protecting the paint in the fourth quarter, and he did a pretty damn good job on Garnett (excluding that one shot).
He also scored 10 points, which for Jared Jeffries is like 100 for Carmelo. He even scored the go-ahead basket with less than a minute left in the fourth (and yes, I laughed hysterically when he did).
The other big who remained following Stoudemire's injury was Roni Turiaf, who brought energy and heart, as always.
Another guy who deserves a mention is Toney Douglas.
His hustle throughout this game was astonishing and his willingness to do anything for the team was proven when he put himself in foul trouble early to get his injured teammate out of the game (sure, it was stupid, but that's the type of thing that helps team chemistry).
He also played outstanding defense and was one of the few Knicks not afraid to take his shot when he had it.
They said these Knicks couldn't win a title because they weren't willing to get physical on defense, because they weren't a team made up of blue-collar guys and most of all because their supporting cast around the Big Three wasn't good enough.
However, one thing is for certain: The Knicks' supporting players aren't interested in how good they are, they're interested in how good they can be.
And evidently, that ain't so bad.
The Knicks may not have won the battle, they may not even win the war, but they proved one thing on Tuesday: If you play the Knicks in the playoffs, you're in for a dogfight.
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