Carrying an eight game winning streak into this week, the Knicks were primed to play three legitimate winning teams (Nuggets, Celtics, and the Heat), hoping to prove that they themselves are contenders, and not pretenders.
Although the week started off on a positive note, with the Knicks defeating the Nuggets while showing Carmelo Anthony the type of team he could be a part of in New York, they fell to the Celtics on Wednesday night.
The Knicks, however, pushed the Celtics to the wire, losing during a questionable last minute of play. Trailing by two, the Knicks' Amar'e Stoudemire swished in a three-point shot (an apparent game-winner) that was later ruled no good.
Win or lose, the Knicks proved that they could contend all the way through with a championship-caliber team, so the end result (given the final minute of play) appeared irrelevant for argument's sake.
While the Knicks were able to keep up the pace during the first two matchups (win or lose), they were simply outplayed during the team's 113-91 loss to the Heat last night.
Last night's game was also the first time LeBron James (and his teammates' Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) visited New York since opting to sign with the Heat over the Knicks this summer.
Although the Heat struggled to build up team chemistry early on, their recent winning streak saw "The Big Three" finally find a proper balance. During the said streak, (one of "The Big Three) either LeBron, Wade, or Bosh clearly has taken the lead on offense, with the other two strongly supporting, during each and every game.
During the Knicks however, all three turned up the heat (no pun intended) as Wade and Bosh scored 26 points a piece, and LeBron pouring in 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists.
The Knicks were simply overpowered overpowered by the offensive onslaught. Bosh took advantage of their weaknesses early on, converting for multiple buckets on the inside. The Knicks had no answer, as defensive specialist Ronny Turiaf only played four minutes in the game.
Against a team like the Heat, you simply need to keep up on offense: you cannot worry about stopping them on defense, because it simply is not going to happen with so many weapons.
That being said, Amar'e Stoudemire's 30-point game streak was stopped at nine, with him only scoring 24. Danilo Gallinari poured in 25 points, but only less than six of those points came in the second half. Raymond Felton's offense also took a hit against the Heat.
Nevertheless, Knicks fans should not panic just yet; last season, the team was getting blown out consistently during games like this. Staying competitive during (at least) two out of the three games this week proved that this isn't the same time.
The Knicks are a team that have been exceeding expectations, and perhaps the Heat shrunk them back to size for just a night. It's how they bounce back that will prove to be crucial to the team's season.
The Knicks visit LeBron's old team, the Cavs, tonight, looking to resume their winning ways.