At the very least, the Knicks are likely to have two-thirds of their Big Three intact Friday, when their first-round series with the Boston Celtics continues with Game 3 at Madison Square Garden. Amar'e Stoudemire, who suffered back spasms that forced him out of Tuesday's Game 2 loss in Boston, is expected to be ready and the question that remains is if Chauncey Billups will be, as well.
Both players underwent MRI tests Wednesday that confirmed their originally diagnosed injuries. Billups, who has a strained tendon in his left knee, also had "a little bit of blood" that collected in the area drained from the knee, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. He is listed as questionable for Game 3, but the idea of him playing in the critical game is "not closed," the source said.
Stoudemire suffered a pulled muscle in his lower back while attempting a highlight film-type dunk during the layup line before Game 2. He officially is listed as day-to-day.
"I touched the top of the glass with my left hand and dunked it with my right," Stoudemire said. "I think that's when I felt it get tight on me."
During the game, Stoudemire said he "could hardly move" and "couldn't get quite totally loose." By the second quarter it had become "a sharp pain and I couldn't continue."
One of the NBA's most fit players, Stoudemire said he never had experienced back spasms before so he had no idea what to expect.
"Hopefully," he said, "I'll be ready to go by Friday."
The Knicks, who trail 0-2 in the best-of-seven series, did not practice Wednesday but are scheduled to practice Thursday at MSG Training Center. The franchise is searching for its first playoff win in a decade.
Coincidentally, Friday is exactly 10 years since the team's last home playoff win, a 92-85 victory over the Toronto Raptors on April 22, 2001, in Game 1 of a first-round series, which the Knicks lost in five.
Overall, the Knicks will be looking to end an eight-game playoff losing streak, which dates to April 29, 2001, a 97-89 win at Toronto.
Billups felt his knee buckle as he drove to the basket against Jermaine O'Neal with just over a minute left in Sunday's Game 1 loss in Boston. The knee already was causing him trouble before the playoffs as a result of banging it during the team's final home game of the regular season against the Chicago Bulls on April 12.
It was the second time that Billups had been forced to miss a game because of an injury since he was acquired from the Denver Nuggets as part of the Anthony trade on Feb. 22 and the third time this season.
Billups missed six games in early March when he suffered a deep thigh bruise after being kneed by Dwight Howard on a pick. In December, while with Denver, Billups missed six games with a sprained right wrist that he suffered on a fall in a Nov. 20 game against the Nets.
Billups played for USA Basketball at the World Championships last summer and the extra work could be taking a toll on the 34-year-old.
The point guard matchup in this series, with the elusive Rajon Rondo to deal with, makes it even tougher for Billups to attempt to play if the knee is not 100 percent. He said he would gauge his availability on how well he can run up and down the court. "If I can't help my team, I'm going to be hurting my team," Billups said. "So I can't do that."