The New York Knicks earned a win on Friday but fell even farther away from making the playoffs. They beat the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre, 108-100, while the Atlanta Hawks beat the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. New York’s "tragic number" is down to a single game, meaning the next Knicks loss or Hawks win will clinch the East’s eighth spot for Atlanta. Each team has three to play.
Head coach Mike Woodson was a bit delayed in meeting the media because he was watching the end of the Hawks game. He’s seen his team win 13 of 18 games, and yet it’s looking less and less likely that it will have more of them to play this time next week.
The small chance the Knicks have is largely thanks to Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. Nursing a right shoulder injury, Anthony scored an efficient 30 points on 8-for-17 shooting from the field and 13-for-14 from the free throw line. He added eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. Stoudemire’s 40 minutes were a season high, and he finished with 24 points on 10-for-14 shooting, 11 rebounds and a block.
"We’re going to need [Anthony] to be aggressive for the last three games. And whenever he plays like he does tonight, it’s tough for teams to beat us," New York guard J.R. Smith said. "And when STAT [Stoudemire] has it going like he did, it’s really hard."
Anthony said the rest he’s had since Sunday’s game in Miami helped the shoulder and that he just had to keep it warm before the game and take a couple of shots early on to get his rhythm. He had 18 of his points by halftime and never shied away from contact.
"It was unbelievable," Toronto head coach Dwane Casey said. "He made the plays he made against double-teams."
Stoudemire started things off with a baseline drive and a two-handed dunk on the baseline, slapping the backboard for emphasis. Two similarly vicious finishes in succession with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter gave New York an 11-point lead it would not relinquish. He talked with Woodson about exceeding his normal minutes restriction, and he said he didn’t feel any ill effects from the increased workload.
"I felt great," Stoudemire said."I feel blessed to be able to persevere through injuries and reach back to my dominant self. It’s definitely a pleasure to feel, to be back out there again at that level."
Stoudemire stressed the importance of being optimistic about the playoff picture, but all of the Knicks understood the odds are against them.
"I’m not gonna lie, it’s a tough thing to grasp," Smith said. "But we put ourselves in this situation. If we’re going to beat up anybody about it, we can’t get mad at Atlanta. We can’t get mad at anybody else but ourselves. We put ourselves in this situation. We dug this grave. We gotta lie in it."