The Knicks’ last five games start and finish against the Indiana Pacers, which is only fitting since the beginning of the end for Carmelo Anthony’s best season in New York took place in a loss to the Pacers.
Next month marks the three-year anniversary of a moment frozen in time; Roy Hibbert blocking Anthony’s dunk attempt, which ignited the Indiana Pacers’ fourth quarter comeback in Game 6 of their second-round playoff series. The date, May 18, 2013, is significant because it is the last time Anthony and the Knicks appeared in a playoff game.
The Knicks enter Sunday’s home game with a 31-46 record after winning 17 games last season and 37 the year before. To put that in proper perspective, that’s just 17 more total wins than the Golden State Warriors have this season alone.
In three years. Anthony has done a lot of losing; both games and teammates. He is the last remaining player from the Knicks team that won 54 games as well as the Knicks one and only playoff series victory in 16 seasons.
The Pacers, who reached back-to-back conference finals starting in 2012-13, still have three players from the team that eliminated the Knicks; Paul George, George Hill and Ian Mahinmi.
Hibbert has since moved on to the Los Angeles Lakers and his career hasn’t been the same since that memorable meeting at the rim with Anthony.
The Knicks were leading 92-90 when Hibbert rejected Anthony in what became the series’ most pivotal moment. The block ignited a 9-0 Pacers run while Anthony imploded, committing three turnovers and missing a pull-up jumper.
A photo captured the moment perfectly — the right palm of the 7-foot-2 center is on the ball as Anthony is trying to dunk — and Hibbert has it framed in his home.
“It was a gift.” Hibbert said a few years back. In fact, it was the Pacers who presented that picture to Hibbert following his season-ending exit meeting three years ago.
Anthony doesn’t have any such mementos from that series, only the pain of knowing the Knicks had a realistic shot at reaching the NBA Finals. Now, however, his streak of playoff-less seasons is at three and counting. Anthony had reached the postseason in his first 10 NBA seasons.
Anthony has every right to wonder if he’ll ever see the playoffs again in a Knicks uniform. In Mike Woodson’s final season as head coach, the Knicks won 37 games and finished one game behind Atlanta for eighth place.
Last year, the Knicks began tanking in early January and won just 17 games. This season, without a first-round pick to show for all the losing, the Knicks wanted to be a playoff team but were essentially out of the race in early March. Last year, the Knicks finished 14th in the East and this year they’re currently 13th.
Some might call that progress but they might also be the same gullible souls that get duped by card tricks in Times Square.
Under Phil Jackson, the Knicks have yet to play a meaningful game in the last two months of the each of the past two seasons. Jackson, however, did tweet a photo of his spring break hideaway in upstate Woodstock the morning after the Knicks lost to a terrible and undermanned Pelicans team in New Orleans. Neither the timing nor the optics were very good.
But very little about the Knicks, besides drafting Kristaps Porzingis, has been good since Anthony and Hibbert met that Saturday at the basket in Indianapolis in Game 6. It goes down as one the most profound moments in franchise history and it’s something the Knicks still haven’t recovered from.
“I have a lot of respect for Carmelo,” Hibbert once said, “He caught me a couple of times in that series and he dunked it. I just happened to get that one.”