Times are bleak for the Knicks.
They are down two games to the Heat and they'll take the court without three-and-a-half of their best players (Jared Jeffries is the half) in a game that probably represents their last best chance to extend this series past Sunday.
As much as you might like to think that the team could punch back with their backs against the wall in Game Four, the chances of it happening are awfully low.
So this is their spot, their chance to push all the bad feelings of the first two games out of the way and make at least one more happy memory to savor when this year comes to an end. Can they actually do that?
Frankly, the odds aren't good. But there are still reasons to think that things can go the Knicks' way on Thursday night.
One of them is the opportunity to avoid a 13th-straight playoff loss, which would set an NBA record. Here's five more of them, starting with the fact that they'll be playing at home, sweet home.
1. The MSG Advantage - There's a good chance that the crowd filing into Madison Square Garden is going to be a grumpy one thanks to everything that's gone down in the first two games, but it won't take much to get them loud and fully engaged. The Heat haven't been a very good road team this year, so there could be an opportunity to strike early and turn the building into the sixth man that the Knicks desperately need on the court with them against Miami.
2. Whistle Stop - Attempts to make the huge foul shot disparity of the first two games about a conspiracy favoring the Heat doesn't make much sense when you see how much more effective the Heat have been taking the ball to the hoop. Every night is a crapshoot with NBA officials, though, and there's a better than fair shot that things will wind up favoring the Knicks at home even if the Heat keep attacking the hoop.
3. The J.R. and Novakaine Show - J.R. Smith and Steve Novak haven't done all that much so far in this series, but they can get hot enough to carry the team to a victory. Getting them open and going should be a big priority for the Knicks, especially the next guy on our list.
4. 'Melo All Alone - The loss of Amar'e Stoudemire doesn't make the Knicks better, not with their other injury issues anyway, but it should make the Knicks offense a bit less dysfunctional. It won't be pretty watching Carmelo Anthony slug away by himself, but that approach has had its moments this season and if he gets going it will open up chances for other players.
5. The Defensive Player of the Year - The defense was not good on Monday night, but Tyson Chandler is both further removed from his bout with the flu and holding onto a shiny new Defensive Player of the Year trophy. Chandler's a proud fellow who isn't going to want to have that well-deserved award tarnished by four straight one-sided losses.
The sum of those things might not add up to a win, but they represent the best path to one. Take any of them away and we're going to be much closer to the end of this chapter of the big book of Knicks seasons.