The Knicks' 106-99 loss to the Pacers in game six of their round two matchup put an end to their NBA title dreams, thus allowing the season to come to a close.
Having won a previously pivotal game five on their home court to stay alive, New York had hoped to steal a game six victory away from Indiana as well (this time on the road) to bring the series back to the Big Apple and essentially, force a game seven.
The hearts of Knicks fans everywhere were broken as Brooklyn's own, the spunky Lance Stephenson, helped the Pacers break away in the game's final minutes to earn themselves a series victory. New York kept the pace for three full quarters, proving they wouldn't go down without a fight. The likes of Carmelo Anthony, Iman Shumpert, and even Chris Copeland helped their team secure a small lead in the third quarter, but such satisfaction escaped them quickly as that same lead was short-lived.
Anthony was playing like a true superstar, Shumpert was having a breakout postseason performance, and Copeland was simply continuing to prove why he deserves quality minutes. Even J.R. Smith played relatively well in relation to his recent outings, scoring more points by getting to the line efficiently and grabbing more rebounds, too.
With the Knicks on their heels and the momentum clearly in the visiting team's favor, the Indiana crowd came alive as the Pacers neutralized Anthony, thus creating a domino effect as the star was left for dead. None of his teammates were able to capitalize and come through in the clutch in keep the Knicks alive.
Losing game six is undoubtedly a bummer for the Knicks, but frankly, it's hard to blame their efforts in the final loss. The home crowd was behind the Pacers, who received last minute boosts from unlikely sources as the Knicks attempted to cover all necessary and expected bases. It's difficult to place blame on an individual or two, considering New York was in the game until the very end. It's tough to criticize their effort.
But that only goes for game six. Where was that same urgency throughout the rest of the series? Examining the rest of the Knicks' losses is where cause for concern can be found.
Tyson Chandler was not only none existent, but tremendously outplayed by Roy Hibbert all series long. It's one thing to depend on your starting center as a coach, but Mike Woodson should have pulled the plug on Chandler earlier in the series. A shortened leash was necessary. The same could be said with regard to performances by the likes of Smith and Jason Kidd. There were players waiting in the wings (Copeland, Steve Novak, and even Pablo Prigioni in game four) who could have stepped up to fill the massive voids.
The Pacers stole game one from the Knicks on their home court, but clearly, the Knicks had plenty of opportunities to recover. Both games three and four in Indiana were winnable contests. The crowd was a quiet one, the pace was slow, and the Pacers were inconsistent. All that was necessary was that the Knicks be ready to pounce. They weren't, and they failed to capitalize on things that would have kept them in the series.
As poorly as the Knicks were playing in both games, their offense stagnant as could be, Indiana was playing just as badly. New York failed to steal either one of those games away. That, paired up with the fact that they lost at home, is what truly led to their demise.
They should hang their heads high after a valiant effort in game six, but frankly, fault can be placed on those individuals who didn't step up and allowed New York to be in such a position in the first place. The team shouldn't have had to play with their backs against the wall throughout the series.