The Knicks Want to Live a Little Longer

Knicks snap 12-year playoff losing streak, extend series with Heat

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    For the first time in a long time: A shout of playoff joy.

    The confetti was probably a bit much.

    As Knicks fans were celebrating the 89-87 season-extending win over the Heat on Sunday afternoon, the Garden braintrust decided to shower them with orange and blue confetti that had probably been packed away sometime before anyone had a cell phone with internet access. It was an odd choice, given the fact that the Knicks were now down 3-1 in a series that has only occasionally seen them be competitive with the Heat.

    Not too odd a choice, though. The Knicks hadn't won a playoff game since 2001, a string of 13 straight losses, and so you can understand why any win would feel like an occasion worthy of confetti.

    This wasn't just any win, though. It was a win on a day when everyone assumed the Knicks would fold up and give away the final game of their season because there just wasn't anything left to fight for this season.

    Perhaps it was Amar'e Stoudemire's decision to play with a huge wrap on his stitched up left hand that forced the team to find the energy they've lacked so often this series, but it was definitely something that got the team riled up to play.

    They weren't settling for bad shots or playing defense as if they needed cash incentive to close out on shooters. Instead, they were attacking on both ends and matching the intensity of the Heat even when it looked like the game was getting away from them.

    It would have sort of fit with this Knicks season if those two finally found a way to thrive side-by-side in the final loss of the year, but instead it allowed the team's torch to remain unextinguished. All game it looked like the Heat would finally find their gear and kick past the Knicks, just as they did in the first three games, but the Knicks just kept coming back and attacking the bullies from South Florida.

    Carmelo Anthony was the clearest example of this new aggression for the Knicks. Melo dropped 41 thanks to 14 shots at the rim and 18 from the paint in the kind of performance that makes a lot of people think twice about castigating him for being nothing but a ball hog without a sense of the right plays to make on the court.

    Anthony's game didn't stop Stoudemire from contributing, either. Amar'e had 20 points and 10 rebounds, which is pretty good for a guy whose left hand looked like a Q-Tip.

    They all fought, though. Tyson Chandler fights every minute of every day and J.R. Smith (whose shooting is best not discussed among polite company) fought LeBron James and Dwyane Wade all day defensively.

    This being the 2012 Knicks, there was also another major change to the roster. Baron Davis' life force (and right patella) gave out on one attempted fast break and he was stretchered off to an ovation from the crowd.

    Knicks point guards are the basketball equivalent of Spinal Tap's drummers, of course, but today's shift actually worked out as Mike Bibby shook off the zombification with a couple of huge threes. There's a chance Jeremy Lin will play in Game Five -- heck, we're not ruling out a Walt Frazier comeback in this season of unyielding nuttiness -- so who knows what will come next.

    There is a next, though, and that's pretty much the biggest point of all to take away from Sunday. The Knicks fought, the Knicks won and everyone got a chance to be happy after so much depression in this series.

    Yes, there's a pretty overwhelming likelihood that the Knicks have simply given themselves a brief stay of execution and that's not really something that needs to be celebrated with confetti or long odes to their fighting spirit. But that doesn't mean it's not a moment to celebrate, if only because this year's team gave us plenty of such moments and ending the season with anything other than the bad taste of a sweep is enjoyable.

    Beyond that, it's one more reason to dream in this eternally wacky Knicks season. Nothing wrong with that, regardless of when you wake up.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.