Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.
It has been two months since we last heard from the doubters who had been warning us about the Knicks' flaws all along, from limited scoring options to overreliance on three-pointers to J.R. Smith's unpredictability to spotty defense.
Then came Wednesday night, when it all came crashing down and every old concern about what could go wrong did, at the worst possible time.
With a chance to win their first postseason series in 13 years, the Knicks instead laid an inexplicable egg before a crowd at Madison Square Garden that had come to celebrate, losing to the Celtics, 92-86.
The Knicks, who had not lost at home since March 7, now must return to Boston, where the resurgent Celtics can even the first-round playoff series at three games apiece tomorrow night.
Even if the Knicks avoid making NBA history by eventually blowing their 3-0 series lead -- Game 7 would be at the Garden Sunday -- Wednesday's debacle will remind fans who had grown overconfident that nothing is guaranteed here.
Suddenly there is reason to fear a second-round series against the Pacers or Hawks that stands between the Knicks and a crack at the Heat in the conference finals. That assumes, of course, the Knicks win one of their next two.
As much as the Knicks insisted afterward they still are in control, that was based more on math than emotions.
Carmelo Anthony's postgame news conference ended after a question about Crawford that led to a disgusted answer that concluded with this: "I don't even think he deserves for you to be typing [his name] right now."
Still, Anthony insisted, "We're good," by which he meant the team's mindset, not how it played Wednesday. That was awful. It was all downhill after an 11-0 start that seemed to portend an easy night.
Anthony scored 12 points in the first quarter, shooting 5-for-7. Thereafter he was 3-for-17 -- 0-for-5 on three-point tries.
The night was even worse for Smith, who returned from a one-game suspension by missing his first 10 shots before making three late three-pointers and finishing 3-for-14 from the floor. He also was booed by fans who had greeted his initial entry with thunderous applause.
Terry, the man whose chin absorbed Smith's elbow in Game 3, totaled 17 points, made five of his nine three-point attempts and thoroughly enjoyed celebrating in front of the Garden crowd.
After practice Tuesday, Smith pointedly denied knowing Terry's name. He presumably knows it now.
Even with Smith's late, ultimately futile baskets, the Knicks finished 5-for-22 beyond the three-point arc; Boston was 11-for-22. The Knicks have been living and dying by the three all season; Wednesday night, they did the latter.
They also live and die with Anthony and Smith leading the scoring.
"When you have two guys that score that much for your team, a lot of times you lean on them," Iman Shumpert said. "But when they are not making shots you have to do little things to win the game."
Playing a Game 7 Sunday would mean a nervous home crowd and nervous home team and prompt too many stories and too much talk about a certain New York vs. Boston baseball playoff in 2004. That is the last thing the Knicks want. See you Friday!