Knicks Learn That There's No Gain Without a Little Pain

Amar'e and Billups leave with injuries as Knicks move back into sixth.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP

    In a good horror film, terror strikes the main characters when everything seems to be going their way.

    Wednesday night's Knicks game felt a lot like one of those films. It was the third quarter, there was a double-digit lead and sixth place was in reach when some kind of force from the netherworld reached up and tried to turn the game into a nightmare of Elm Streetian proportions.

    Chauncey Billups went down after taking another knee to the thigh, the same injury that kept him out in March and a double dip that makes you wonder if he shouldn't be wearing some kind of pad on his vulnerable area. Then Amar'e Stoudemire was on the floor after rolling his ankle, an even more terrifying injury that likely made more than one Knicks fan lose his dinner all over the bathroom floor.

    In the interim, the big lead disappeared. It looked like the Knicks winning streak was dead at four games and that seemed like the least of the worries facing the team.

    It did not turn out to be a night for Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers or that psychopath from the "Saw" movies, however. Carmelo Anthony and Toney Douglas hit some late threes, the Knicks played some defense and they escaped with a 97-92 win.

    The news from the trainer's room was also positive. Billups said he could have returned to action if the stakes were higher and Stoudemire was back on the floor for the final moments.

    There's some talk about both men missing Friday night's game against the Nets, something that seems reasonable given the need for both of them to be fully healthy for the playoffs. It's not as simple as sitting them until the postseason gets underway, however.

    As discussed on Wednesday, this team is gelling right now and radically changing the rotation could well lead to a backward step for a team that took a while to find its footing. We've seen enough of the good Knicks to know that they can push either the Celtics or the Heat in a playoff series, but that won't happen if the team needs a couple of games to find themselves all over again.

    The difference between sixth and seventh place isn't large enough to risk injury to any key players. At the same time, the difference between the Knicks of March and the Knicks of April is too great to go back to a fragmented roster trying to get to know one another.

    One last minefield to tiptoe through before getting to the promised land. Hey, no one ever said it was going to be easy.

    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.