Before the playoffs began, some of us at The Knicks Wall participated in a round table discussion about the keys to a deep Knicks playoff run. Despite the obvious importance of health and the reliability of Melo, I couldn’t help but identify “composure,” as the vital factor for success. Looking back on the season, each tough loss can be associated with eruptive emotions. When the 6-0 Knicks rolled into Memphis in early November, they suffered their first loss of the season in a game riddled with technical and flagrant fouls. When the Knicks lost their cool against Chicago in a midseason matchup at the Garden, fans left dejected while players were ejected.
If emotions could obstruct victory during a meaningless game in November, there was no telling what could happen in a Honey-Nut Cheerio infused playoff battle against hated rival Boston. Thus, the motto must be: Keep Calm and Move on.
In the first three games of the series, the Knicks barely worked a sweat. The famed Celtics Pride fell short as did nearly all of Paul Pierce’s jumpers.
Then an elbow.
Then a loss.
Then another loss.
The Orange and Blue were unraveling right before our eyes (figuratively speaking, as many of us couldn’t bear to watch).
At around 4:00 on Friday, the dread of the looming Game 6 and the potential for (an inevitable) Game 7 was unbearable. By tipoff, I thought I was going to pass out.
But, as the game progressed, the lead forever in our favor, I allowed myself to exhale. A 10 point lead grew to 15. When Iman Shumpert came down with that “yeaaaa, I just did that” look on his face to balloon the margin to 26, I even dared to consider our upcoming bout with Pacers.
Then a three
Then a steal.
Then a dunk.
Oh. My. God.
Our 26 point lead evaporated in mere minutes. My hair? Gone. My heart? Exploding. My Breath? Hyperventilating. I spent the entire Celtics comeback envisioning how I would go about avoiding future documentaries about the epic collapse WITHIN the epic collapse. Not only were the Knicks going to blow this lead, they were going to blow the series. Even as a Jets fan and a Mets fan, I was nowhere nearly prepared to handle this level of losing. Cursing the basketball gods and Jason Terry, I wallowed in sorrow. In a moment of chaos, I even directed angry barbs at our good friend Mike Breen who I felt betrayed us with the gleeful voice he used to describe the Celtics 19-0 run.
And yet, while I was doing a laughable job keeping my composure, the Knicks were chillin’. When a pair of Jeff Green free throws cut the lead to four, Raymond Felton shot a “McKayla Maroney glance” at the Boston bench. Not Impressed. Missed 19 straight 3’s? I’ll hit the 20th, said an unfazed Melo. You guys scoring at will right now? Cool story bro * Swat!* A steal from Iman Swaggert stopped the bleeding, an And One from JR sealed it with a bandage.
The Knicks could have folded. Should have folded. But with stoicism of a Mike Woodson Death stare, the Knicks held their ground; mentally and physically.
It is no coincidence that of all Phil Jackson’s coaching abilities he is best known for his Zen-like approach. Keep Calm and Move On In the Playoffs. That’s how it works. If the Knickerbockers can weather a few more storms, they’ll have a real shot at the Golden Ball come June.