By Tommy Rothman
For the first time this season, the Knicks are playing a must-win game. A real must-win game. If the Knicks lose on Thursday, they won’t have another game until November, and only Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Steve Novak, Iman Shumpert, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Marcus Camby are locks to be on the roster next year. With so much on the line for now and so much in question for the future, Thursday’s game 5 is a game the Knicks must win at all costs. The same holds true for game 6 and game 7 (if necessary). 9 NBA teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit. Can the Knicks make it 10? Is New York still alive?
Here is my breakdown of game 5, game 6, and game 7.
NOTE: Obviously, my analysis for game 6 is based on the assumption that the Knicks have won game 5, and my analysis for game 7 is based on the fact that New York has also won game 6.
The first thing the Knicks need to do is win game 5 at home. The odds favor New York as the game will be played in the Garden, but as we learned in game 1, nothing is guaranteed. The Knicks must feed off of the crowd, hustle a bit more, and get a few more shots to fall in order to take care of business at home and keep their season alive. I give them about a 70% chance of winning this one.
Game 6 is where many expect the Knicks to meet their end. New York will have to beat Indy on the road, something they have not done all year. Indy is 4-0 at home in the playoffs, and the Knicks looked listless for part of game 3 and almost all of game 4 at the Fieldhouse. After winning game 5 (see NOTE), the Knicks will have some momentum and confidence, and will be playing with the knowledge that all they need is one win to force a game 7 in a packed Garden. At this point, the pressure will be on the Pacers. Indy is a young team that has been prone to blowing leads all year. At times, they have appeared easily rattled. Can the veteran Knicks capitalize on this? That will be the key. To win, of course, New York will need improved shot-making and a bit of an improvement on the glass. They can’t get sucked into the somewhat muted Indiana atmosphere and become completely listless like they did in game 4. I think the Knicks have a 35% chance of winning here.
After winning games 5 and 6 (see NOTE), the Knicks will have earned the right to host a winner-take-all game 7 at the Garden. All the pressure will be on Indiana. If it gets to a game 7, as long as the Knicks don’t get complacent after winning games 5 and 6 (which, it pains me to say, is possible based on our roster’s history), they should be able to take care of business in game 7. I’d give them an 80% chance of winning this game.
The Knicks are the better team, and their matchup with Indy isn’t too bad. If they can get back the home-court advantage they so foolishly squandered in game 1, they should be able to take the series. Game 5 seems like a very winnable game, but it will by no means be easy. The Knicks need to take care of business Thursday, then move on to game 6. Game 6 is where their season will most likely end, but if they can pull out a win there (and i think they can), then we will have the upper hand going into game 7. The Nets came back from 3-1 down to force a game 7. Why don’t we one-up them?
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