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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

Knicks need to control emotions to be successful in playoffs

Boston Celtics guard Jason Terry smiles as Knicks

Boston Celtics guard Jason Terry smiles as Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony gestures to a referee and guard J.R. Smith walks away after a play in the second half. (Jan. 7, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

The Knicks' four victories over Miami and San Antonio this season have provided some with hope that they can compete for a title this year. But the Knicks have had some other games that should raise some serious red flags.

Losses to Memphis, Boston, Indiana and Chicago show the Knicks could have a quick playoff exit if they don't figure out how to keep their emotions in check and execute when the play gets physical, tensions rise and calls don't go their way.

The Knicks were called for four technical fouls in their November loss in Memphis. Afterward, they said they couldn't wait to see the Grizzlies in New York. They play in March.

Last month against Chicago, the Knicks were hit with six technicals, had three ejections and said they couldn't wait to play the Bulls again. Chicago returned to the Garden on Friday, built a 25-point lead and beat the Knicks for the third time this season.

The Knicks lost a tight game in Indiana on Thursday -- without Carmelo Anthony -- because they couldn't make shots in the fourth quarter. They drew two techs that night.

They were without Anthony because he lost his cool in Monday's loss to Boston and was suspended for confronting Kevin Garnett outside the Celtics' locker room and bus.

Garnett reportedly said something personal to set off Anthony, but it never should have escalated to the point that it affected his game. Anthony missed his last six shots, and the Celtics' mettle and championship experience carried them down the stretch.

Maybe the Knicks will learn from that game. Maybe they won't.

"This is how it's going to be in the playoffs and definitely the second half of the year," Amar'e Stoudemire said. "It's great to get a measuring stick now to figure out how we're going to play.

"We've got to make sure we keep our composure and are ready to play."

The rest of the NBA sees how easy it is to get under the Knicks' skin, how quickly they can lose their composure. Teams such as the Celtics will take advantage. Garnett and Paul Pierce are big-time trash-talkers but can deliver, as they have so many times.

The referees also see what the Knicks are doing and the reputation they're building.

Anthony has been called for eight technicals this season, J.R. Smith six and Tyson Chandler and Rasheed Wallace four apiece. Mike Woodson leads all coaches with six techs.

The Knicks' lack of composure falls on Woodson as much as anyone. He's gotten them to play hard for him and buy in. He is pushing the right buttons, but he also has to control his team.

If they're losing their poise in hotly contested regular-season games in November, December and January, what's going to happen when the games really matter in April and May?

If the Knicks can't take the heat, they're not going to beat the Heat -- or perhaps even advance far enough to play Miami.


Iman Shumpert inspired by Vikings' Adrian Peterson

As Iman Shumpert was strengthening his surgically repaired left knee, he was inspired by Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

Peterson tore his ACL on Christmas Eve 2011 and came back stronger. He rushed for 2,097 yards this season, the second-highest total ever.

"It was cool to see him go out there and be successful as soon as he got back, almost breaking the record," Shumpert said. "It's an inspiration, but I've got to do my own thing."

Shumpert blew out his knee in the playoffs against Miami and had surgery to repair a torn ACL and lateral meniscus May 2. He was cleared for contact Tuesday and could make his season debut against Detroit on Thursday in London.


Boston's big goals

The Celtics' storied tradition means not celebrating Atlantic Division titles. Doc Rivers said he doesn't know how many in a row Boston has won. It's five, Doc.

"Our goal is bigger," Rivers said. "So is the Knicks', but maybe that's part of their goal and that's their first step. But our goal is bigger than that. There's not one divisional banner hanging up in Boston. There's not even a conference championship banner hanging up in Boston. Maybe we think bigger."

The Celtics display only the banners representing the club's 17 NBA championships.


Around the league

A report that Lakers teammates Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard had a "heated exchange" after a recent game led to Bryant tweeting a staged photo of he and Howard squaring off, with coach Mike D'Antoni between them, lying on a trainer's table with his mouth open.

Funny -- but does anyone think Bryant is having fun? The league's most competitive player isn't enjoying the 15-21 Lakers' underachievement or their current six-game losing streak.

Steve Nash, who became the fifth player to amass 10,000 assists, tweeted after the milestone: "Wow! Thanks for all the love everyone. Especially all the teammates that made me look good through the years . . . But . . . we need a win . . . bad."

Expect the trade rumors for Pau Gasol and even Howard to heat up.

It's a little more than a month before the trade deadline, and as of Tuesday, free agents who re-signed with their team and received a raise greater than 20 percent (Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez among others) can be traded.

The Lakers, Grizzlies (Rudy Gay is available), Rockets, Raptors, Warriors, Celtics and Nets could be among the most active as the deadline nears.

Some team will and should take a chance on veteran forward Kenyon Martin. The Knicks have been rumored to have interest. The Heat would be a good fit for him, too.

The Kings could be sold to a Seattle investor and relocate there. It's about time basketball was back in the Emerald City.

Basketball's Hall of Fame announced its nominees for induction. It won't be a shutout, as baseball was, with first-timer Gary Payton among the candidates.

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