MIAMI (AP)—If the numbers are to be believed, then the New York Knicks’ season is about to end. Of the other 101 teams to lose the first three games in a best-of-seven NBA series, none ultimately prevailed and only 10 managed to stave off elimination twice.
That doesn’t mean the Miami Heat are leaving anything to chance.
For the past two days, the Heat have stewed over and stared at the tape of what went wrong at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, when a litany of things—11 missed free throws, 16 missed 3-pointers, two blown double-digit leads, giving up a 19-2 run in the third quarter and having all that capped by a botched play at the end of regulation—added up to an 89-87 loss that extended the Knicks’ season.
When the teams’ Eastern Conference first-round series resumes Wednesday night, the Heat expect to be sharper.
“You carry it with you 24 hours, you go over what needs to be done, you correct it and you get rid of it,” Heat forward LeBron James said. “That’s not saying that you don’t care about it but you’ve got to move on to the next game. You can’t let it linger too much and carry that game into Game 5. So Game 4 for us is over. We’re preparing for Game 5 now.”
Miami leads the best-of-seven 3-1, and needs only a home win Wednesday for a ticket to the East semifinals.
According to STATS LLC, seven teams rallied from down 3-0 in a series before losing in six games, and other three extended things all the way to Game 7 before succumbing.
“That’s the exciting part for me,” said Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who carried New York with 41 points—the most from anyone yet in this postseason—in Game 4. “I mean, history is definitely not on our side right now. But we believe and we’re confident that we want to go down there and win this basketball game and bring it back here. We get this one, who knows what can happen.”
Of course, not only are the Knicks dealing with long odds, they’re doing so with a short bench.
Iman Shumpert tore a knee ligament in Game 1, and Baron Davis left Game 4 with a catastrophic knee injury—dislocated kneecap, two torn ligaments and a torn tendon. Shumpert won’t play for months, Davis is out at least a year, and the Knicks ended speculation Tuesday by saying Jeremy Lin’s recovery from knee surgery will not allow him to play in the rest of the series against Miami regardless of how long it goes.
“If he’s not ready to go based on how he’s feeling, we’ve got to respect that and move on,” Knicks interim coach Mike Woodson said.
Amare Stoudemire returned for Game 4 after slicing open his left hand by striking a metal-and-glass case holding a fire extinguisher moments after the Knicks dropped the second game of the series.
At the time, the odds of him and the Knicks playing again in Miami didn’t look good. But here they are, and Stoudemire spent part of Tuesday saying how his team has a chance “to do something special.”
“I just don’t want to look at that fire extinguisher at all,” Stoudemire said. “But getting a win in Miami would be huge for us.”
The Knicks know exactly what to expect from the Heat. The Heat can’t say the same about the Knicks, given how the absence of Shumpert and now Davis will lead to probably some unconventional lineup choices by Woodson at times.
“They’ll bring something different so we’ve got to be prepared, in a sense like it’s a regular-season game,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “It’ll be a little tougher. Five games in, everyone pretty much knows each other’s offensive package a little bit. You can throw a couple wrinkles in but you kind of get to the point now where you start to know what guys are going to do.”
So it’ll likely be Mike Bibby starting at the point for the Knicks in Game 5, which happened only four times in the regular season. Bibby was 6-for-40—15 percent—from the field in fourth quarters this season, including playoffs, before hitting a 3-pointer that gave New York an 84-81 lead with 1:23 left Sunday.
If Davis hadn’t gotten hurt, Bibby might never have gotten the chance to make that shot, especially if Woodson had gone with his instinct to have J.R. Smith at the point down the stretch.
“Then I never would have seen the big shot that Bibby hit, if I had done that,” Woodson said.
That shot was almost forgotten when Sunday’s game ended, first because of a shot-clock-winding-down 3-pointer by Anthony over Shane Battier with 54 seconds left to play that gave New York the lead, and then how Wade lost the ball briefly before missing a 3 of his own on the final play of the game.
“Without getting too descriptive on what we were looking for, at the end of the day we had an open lane on that drive,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ve seen Dwyane make those plays time and time again over the years. We’ll live with that. In the paint he lost the dribble, but it was a pretty good opportunity to attack the rim. But it became a broken play and we know what happened from there.”
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney contributed to this report.
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