GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Knicks' Big Three was reunited again, as Amar'e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups were on the practice court with Carmelo Anthony here at MSG Training Center for the walk-through portion of this morning's shoot-around. But when the ball tips tonight for Game 3 at Madison Square Garden, it's likely only two of the three will be in the lineup.
And only one, Anthony, will be at full health as the Knicks look to get their first win in the series and, of course, the franchise's first playoff win in a decade.
Mike D'Antoni said Stoudemire's chances of playing are "good" and added, "I don't want to say it's certain, but game-time decision. We're pretty optimistic."
Billups, however? "Less optimistic. He'll keep getting treatments and he'll try to test it, but a lot less probability."
Anthony said he's preparing "like they're not going to be playing tonight. And if they do, that's a plus."
D'Antoni believes Stoudemire will go because "he's overcome microfracture and a detached retina, a thousand things in his life. I would never doubt his will or ability to get over the hurdle. That's the main thing. I have a lot of faith in our medical staff that if it's humanly possible, medically, possible, then they'll get it done."
Even if Stoudemire does play tonight, he'll be well below 100 percent with that pulled muscle in his lower back, but his presence alone, especially with Kevin Garnett on the floor for Boston, is something the Knicks, down 0-2 in the best-of-seven series, are hoping to have in this pivotal game.
"Even if he's out there and can give us what he's got, I think the guys will see he's out there trying, giving some effort, how bad he wants it," Anthony said. "But even if he don't play, we all know how bad he wants to be here. The most important thing is his health."
In the meantime, D'Antoni admitted the Knicks may need their star forward to come up with another big night in the 35-to-40 point range while Anthony is preparing for the Celtics to focus all of their defensive attention on stopping him.
"I'm pretty sure they're doing that," Anthony said of Boston. "I think that's been their scheme though, to figure out how to stop me, figure out how to stop us as a team. I think right now, if they thinking the way I'm thinking, that Chauncey and Amar'e won't be there, then I'm pretty sure they're focusing a lot more on what to do to stop me out there."
It could be a disaster if the Celtics, with their vaunted defense, forces Anthony into taking bad shots.
"I think I've got to be patient, but at the same time I have to be more aggressive, he said. "Without them two guys out there, with the guys we have on the team right now, I feel like I have to make them better just as much as I have to score tonight. And they know that, they know they got to go out there and do what they have to do. We're in it together, it's not just me out there . . . We've got to do it together."