If the Knicks accomplished anything this season, it is that
they are once again watchable. But as their playoff chances die this
agonizingly slow death, it's almost hard to look.
Stephon Marbury has been banged up for weeks and it seems to have finally taken
its toll. David Lee has forced himself back into the lineup despite being
out with injuries.
Eddy Curry is almost the last man standing among the Knicks' regulars.
"I'm just watching the ground, making sure I don't step on nobody's feet,
trying not to turn nothing," Curry said. "It's tough around here. Guys are
dropping like flies."
And so are the Knicks. Friday's 99-94 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at
Madison Square Garden was the fourth straight defeat and 10th in the past 12.
It's hard to talk about a playoff push when you're in a freefall, but say this
about the Knicks: they are going down swinging. But these close-margin losses
don't mean anything in the standings, where the Knicks (31-44) find themselves
three games behind the Magic for the final playoff spot in the East. The
critical thing about this game is that it was the game-in-hand the Knicks had
against Orlando. Now, both teams have seven games remaining.
The Knicks play Saturday in Milwaukee against the Bucks before a daunting
back-to-back hosting the Pistons Monday and playing at the Bulls Tuesday.
"At the end of the day we're all competitors," Curry said. "But we realize
what's going on here. We've got guys that are hurt, we've got guys who aren't
playing 100 percent ... It's tough to win that way."
It's even tougher for them to win without Marbury, who has been their leading
scorer and best player the past two months. Marbury re-aggravated a turf toe
injury in his right foot midway through the first quarter and did not play for
most of the game. He left the game 1:20 into the second quarter and did not
return until 35.2 seconds left in the game. Even then, he came back only as a
decoy, with the Knicks trailing 96-92.
Renaldo Balkman scored on a rebound with 16.8 seconds left to make it 96-92 and
the Knicks put rookie Randy Foye on the line with 13.8 seconds left. Foye hit
the first but missed the second, however the miss was long and went right to
Foye, who was not blocked out at the line. Foye bobbled the rebound, but
teammate Craig Smith grabbed it ahead of any Knick on the floor.
Thomas was livid.
"I wasn't nice to them in the locker room tonight," he said. "I was very upset
with them. All season long we fight and we battle and little things we need to
do to complete a play ... we don't do the little things. Every time you're in a
close game, it is the little things that hurt you. It's the little things that
That one pretty much was the dagger. Kevin Garnett was eventually fouled with
4.1 seconds left and he hit one of two to make it 98-94 for Minnesota (32-43).
The Knicks were done.
But they never rolled over. They trailed by as many as 18 in the second quarter
but came back to tie it at 74 with 10:27 left on a drive by Mardy Collins. The
Knicks never led in the game.
Nate Robinson led the Knicks with 21 points, including 5-for-7 shooting from
three-point range. Curry had 20 points and Collins had a career-high 16.
Foye led the Timberwolves with 19 points. Garnett had 12 points and 15 rebounds.
Marbury played just 11 minutes and had six points. He said he wasn't sure if he
would be able to play Saturday. He had a cortisone shot at halftime to numb
the pain in the foot. "Once this wears off," Marbury said, "I know how it's
going to feel."
Lee had six points and four rebounds in 20:16 and looked hampered by the sore
right leg that kept him out of 17 of the previous 18 games. But he said he will
play the rest of the season.
"As long as I can walk," Lee said, "I'll be out there trying to play."
Notes & quotes: Richardson returned from Miami, where he underwent back surgery
March 29. Richardson said he felt "better now than before the surgery." It'll
be a few weeks before he can start basketball drills, but he expects to be
ready for training camp in October. Contrary to what Thomas said last week,
Richardson said he didn't foresee surgery two years ago, when the Knicks
acquired him from the Suns. "Oh no, definitely not two years ago," he said.
"Because it wasn't a major problem for me two years ago. This year was as bad
as it got for me." Thomas suggested that the Knicks knew Richardson would
singer David Gahan were in attendance.