Empire State of Basketball
Many songs have been written about New York, and with good reason. It’s one of the largest markets in the world, one of the most famous cities known to man and more importantly to us; the Mecca of Basketball. It’s why we have these famous lyrics that occasionally inhabit our collective minds:
“Start spreading the news,
I’m leaving today,
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York!”
“New York State of Mind”
“True Story I’m bringing the team back,
And even Roy Jones was forced
To lean back…”
“These streets will make you feel brand new,
The lights will inspire you
Let’s hear it for New York,
New York, New York…”
-Jay ft. Alicia Keys
And with playoff basketball returning to New York on Friday night, we can only expect the city to be buzzing and for the energy to rise to a whole new level that NYC has not seen in the last decade. But perhaps New Yorkers should be a bit cautious.
Much will be made about how the Knicks came dangerously close to stealing not one, but two games against the Celtics in Boston. Indeed, the Knicks have had leads throughout most of Game 1 and 2, but have lost both games on the road.
In Game 1, Amare Stoudemire reminded us why it is that he was viewed as an MVP candidate during the first half of the season, as he routinely blew by the likes of Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal on his way to a 28-point, 11-rebound performance. Although New York lost Chauncey Billups towards the end of the third quarter, they still had an opportunity to win the game late but failed to execute on both offense and defense to squeak out the win.
Game 2 was a different story altogether. There would be no Chauncey Billups at all during the game and although Stoudemire suited up and played 17 minutes, he was largely ineffective due to back spasms and thus sat out the entire second half. That’s when Carmelo Anthony channeled his inner Kanye West and gave us a performance that brought “All of the Lights” on him. Melo submitted an impressive 42 points, 17 rebounds and six assists that probably made Bernard King, Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird do a double take (by the way, I’m convinced that even Will Smith was impressed; and remember he invented the Pass It to Will offense, which is what the Knicks ran for most of the second half).
Doc Rivers was perhaps just as impressed as we all were and consequently sent a swarm of double teams at the former Syracuse star. The end result you ask? We were treated to a playoff basketball game that was decided by the soon to not be in the Hall of Fame Toney Douglas, the immortal Jared Jeffries, the impressive Roger Mason and the incomparable Bill Walker. This is not meant to insult the players, but rather to illustrate that as close as the game was, the Knicks did not really have that much of a chance in this game (we could talk about the curious decision of having these players on the court but Mike D’Antoni will face enough heat in the next few weeks when a columnist finally writes about his teams’ inability to close out games on defense).
Just make sure you keep all of these facts in mind when Boston is playing in a tough game in front of the Madison Crowd Garden crowd and New York just cannot seem to put them away no matter how big of a lead they get early in the game.
We can count on Carmelo Anthony to suit up for Game 3, but Stoudemire and Billups are still question marks, and even if they do play, we are not sure of just how effective they will be. The Celtics on the other hand will be competing with Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett; and if there is one thing we all know about the NBA, it’s that stars matter. Especially in the playoffs.
New York is home to basketball playground legends, Hip Hop legends (Biggie and Jay-Z) as well as some of the best and most knowledgeable fans in the world. But will it be the site of a second round playoff game this year? Probably not.
But accepting that would probably be against the New York State of Mind.