The Philadelphia 76ers wanted to avoid the Miami Heat in the first round and are getting rewarded for it. But while Sixers fans like myself start wondering if they can really upset the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls, the New York Knicks are already planning their summer vacation. The Knicks actually tried to win enough to get the Heat - yet as usual, they have stopped winning in the postseason.
In fact, the Knicks set an all-time record for NBA playoff futility after their latest loss on May 3. With their season-crushing 87-70 loss to Miami in Game 3, New York is not only 0-3 in this series, but 0-13 in the postseason over the last 11 years. This officially broke the Memphis Grizzlies' past record of 12 straight playoff losses - and there's little reason to expect the Knicks won't keep distancing themselves this postseason.
There was hope that playing without A'mare Stoudemire would help the Knicks more than hurt them, as has been the case at various points this year. However, no matter who the Knicks threw at the Heat, they just could not score. For all of its assumed offensive firepower, New York has now scored 70 points or less in two of its three playoff games.
The defense didn't help that much either, as it even made LeBron James look good in the fourth quarter of a postseason battle. James actually outscored the Knicks by himself in the fourth, as his 17-14 win over the entire New York team helped Miami get on cruise control. But the Heat have been on cruise control for the entire series - although no one still knows if they can do it for three more.
Once New York is eliminated, it will start looking for excuses and scapegoats to explain why it collapsed yet again. But the biggest thing it has to blame is itself - because it was actually too good in the regular season. If the Knicks just lost one more time, they could have faced the Bulls and had Rose's injury balance out Stoudemire's absence, while the Sixers were left to get slaughtered by the Heat yet again.
But given New York's now historic ineptitude in the playoffs, it likely would have found a way to get swept by shorthanded Chicago anyway. At the least, although the Sixers finished with a worse record than the Knicks, they are proving to be further ahead in their quest to become a contender than New York is. Any franchise that can actually win one playoff game - and has won multiple playoff games since 2001 - has to have a leg up somewhere.
Philadelphia enters the weekend with a flicker of hope that it can upset Chicago, no matter how small it still is. That is better than having no hope at all and nearing an offseason where a bloated team must start at square one, which is where New York is almost officially at right now.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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