Commentary

Knicks a lost cause after MSG  massacre

Friday's effort against the C's left fans, players questioning the team's direction

Updated: April 25, 2011, 12:56 PM ET
By Stephen A. Smith | ESPNNewYork.com

The New York Knicks showed up at Madison Square Garden Friday night hoping to provide us all with moments to remember -- then managed to ruin what was supposed to be their best weekend in a decade with memories of futility no one in this town will soon forget.

They spent every second stinking up the joint in a multitude of fashions unimaginable, getting thoroughly outhustled, outmuscled and alarmingly outplayed. Considering how lost and disoriented they appeared over that span, it's clear they were noticeably outcoached, as well.

The collateral damage of their 113-96 loss in Game 3 on this first-round series includes the crumbling of whatever euphoria had been generated from Games 1 and 2 vs. Boston, prompting a call for humility on the part of Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, who were officially diminished to second-tier stars until further notice. It also ignited even more questions about what's next -- and what should be next -- for this Knicks franchise.

Yet, the worse part of it all is that the Knicks know the doubts are warranted.

"Come on now, give us a break," Stoudemire echoed minutes after the game.

"I have no explanation for what happened," the injured Chauncey Billups added.

All Anthony could do was try to downplay the Knicks' horrid performance by saying, "We came in a little too slow," speaking of others as if they shared his level of responsibility. And all that did was provoke private thoughts of sarcasm and ridicule for lumping others in a group with himself, like they're all scheduled to get paid $85 million over the next four years, shouldered with the responsibility of elevating this franchise to a status it is nowhere near right now.

The Knicks need Anthony to be a star in Game 4 on Sunday like he was in Game 2 in Boston last Tuesday. They need Toney Douglas to remember he doesn't need to wait 14 minutes before taking his first shot in the game. They need for Ronny Turiaf to pretend like he can defend. For Jared Jeffries to convince anyone he actually can play. They need to defend, to get Bill Walker and Shawne Williams more shots, and for Landry Fields to recall he's actually paid by the Knicks to show up and play.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not the loss to the Celtics so much that had the Knicks' No. 1 fan Spike Lee looking like a lost puppy, or their fanbase draped with broomsticks permeating their minds. Nor was it the 38 points by Paul Pierce, the eight 3-pointers from Ray Allen (32 points) or the triple-double from Rajon Rondo (20 assists, two more than the entire Knicks team).

What was most bothersome was the laughter seen on the faces of Pierce and Allen. The nonchalance the Celtics exhibited in executing their game plan with relative ease. The fact that they treated the Knicks, literally, like novices, toying with them as if they were amateurs on a playground.

"Whatever the reason, we just didn't have it [Friday night]," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni explained. "Their great players played great," he added, sounding like someone who had barely anything to do with the beating his team endured.

Except D'Antoni did have a lot to do with the drubbing the Knicks experienced, from his team's lethargy, to its inability to defend the pick-and-roll, to its outright refusal to contest most of the 3-pointers getting launched by Pierce and Allen all evening long.

"I was pleased with our effort and our performance in Games 1 and 2, not so pleased with what happened in [Game 3]," Knicks president Donnie Walsh deadpanned, following practice Saturday.

Sadly, that's about as much as any of the Knicks appear to have in common with their fanbase right now.

No one's in the mood for crucifying the Knicks on Easter Sunday, but they'll have to forgive those who may find it a tad bit difficult to find something nice to say about them. Just being candid, we should've all known we were in for a long evening before tip-off arrived, the moment we learned some Garden honcho actually OK'd the singing of the National Anthem by a group with a name like Diddy Dirty Money!

The game, the debacle that took place before a soldout Garden, was supposed to evoke memories of an injured Willis Reed coming out of the tunnel, of Patrick Ewing, with Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley, of a coach in Pat Riley or Jeff Van Gundy. Memories of folks who actually fought in the midst of defeat, who went down swinging -- against the likes of Michael Jordan or Hakeem Olajuwon. One look at these Knicks after Game 3 was reminiscent of watching them depart from a salon, fresh manicure and pedicure appointments, just a pretty as could be.

Barely anyone looked as if they had even produced a sweat. If it was noticeable on D'Antoni, it's because of the obvious heat he's feeling, as Celtics coach Doc Rivers suddenly has everyone fantasizing over what life would be like if he were the one parading the sideline.

"This city, this stage, you can get caught up in all of that if you're not careful and I didn't want [the Celtics] to do that," Rivers explained. "I wanted us focused on competing. The game is competition for us. It ain't theater."

It would've been nice to hear that from D'Antoni and his players. We didn't, which should tell us something.

So much for wondering why the offseason is in the Knicks' immediate future. Along with a bevy of questions, yet to be answered.

Stephen A. Smith | email

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Stephen A. Smith is a featured columnist for ESPNNewYork.com, host of a weekday show for ESPN New York 98.7 and a regular on "SportsCenter" and "First Take."

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