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Celtics 96, Knicks 93: "I'm crushed, but I’m still really proud."

I'll get this out of the way: That was, most things considered, a miserable game of basketball. There was much to lament (the absence or loss of several primary Knicks, the squandering of some incredible numbers, New York's dwindling odds of making it to the second round) and some stuff to grumble about (some major defensive breakdowns, more crunch time gaffes, perhaps some questionable lineups or questionable run-on sentences). Bros locally and nationally might seize this opportunity to disparage our Knicks. Some feel they're still not worthy of respect. Hogwash.

I am crushed, but just like Joamiq, I can't help but be proud of what I saw. The Knicks are not known for depth, mostly because they're not very deep. Nobody in their right mind would peg a New York squad with no Chauncey Billups and just 17 minutes of a practically mummified Amar'e Stoudemire to put another scare into the defending Eastern Conference champions. The Knicks could have gotten away with folding. They didn't, though. Carmelo Anthony put the entire team on his back, registering as heroic a playoff performance as we've seen in a long, long time. Melo made plays of increasingly astonishing difficulty and gravity: soaring rebounds, pinpoint passes and, most of all, incredible shots. The guy probably hadn't seen such vigorous double teams, triple teams, and umptuple teams (new one) like that since he was a teenager facing some over-matched high school opponent, but he managed them with aplomb. Meanwhile, Anthony's supporting cast, an undistinguished outfit of youngsters and erstwhile DNP-CDs, made some clutch shots of their own and completely outworked the Celtics on both backboards. Once more, the closing moments were a matter of inches in either direction, and the team with the edge in seasoning, personnel, and home court (and, if you want, late-game coaching. D'Antoni has been mostly fine, in my opinion, but Doc Rivers has been wizardly.) seized those inches.

The inches thing is what's haunting me, I think. I've always been fascinated (and tormented) by the infinitesimal difference between triumph and heartbreak in basketball, and tonight's biggest moments were, in fact, practically atomic. Look no further than New York's ill-fated final play, in which Kevin Garnett's hand occupied exactly the same slot of airspace as that bedeviling Jared Jeffries pass and his dive for possession grazed the last of the unpainted grains on the parquet floor. Those of you crushed by some decision from any party involved all have your reasons. Me? I'm going to lose sleep because something uncontrollable and imperceptible-- a better-inflated basketball, a fast twitch here or there, a wayward fart-- could have rendered the Knicks winners, but it didn't. Again. I'm incredulous (bitter, too) that that shit gets to decide NBA playoff games. Celtics fans are probably thanking their lucky stars for said shit.

Those tyrannical minutiae governed the game's final moments, but it shan't overlooked, not by those of us that care, how incredible it was that the Knicks even got there. I'm proud of them. You don't have to be.

I unexpectedly need to be out of town and largely incommunicado starting tomorrow afternoon, but if circumstances permit, I intend to flesh this recap out with some of the usual details (from my own notes and any useful links), as well as whatever injury updates are available. From then until game time on Friday, (and hopefully no later), Gian and/or Osborn will be your handsome hosts. Thanks to everybody (well, almost everybody) who stopped by to talk about the game and, really, to that zany bunch of Knicks for making this night memorable, no matter the ending.