COMMENTARY | NBA history says teams up 3-0 have a 100 percent chance of winning the series. In 103 instances, no team has ever lost when being up 3-0.
But the New York Knicks, who are up 3-1 on the Boston Celtics, seem persistent on making the guaranteed difficult. Longtime Knicks fans know what I mean. If you've been a fan of the team since the dark days of Stephon Marbury and Isiah Thomas, you know anything that can go wrong will.
The Knicks have not made the conference semifinals in 13 years and before this year hadn't won two postseason games since 2001. So while the numbers say the Knicks have a greater chance of moving on than the Celtics, Knicks fans won't believe it until it happens.
The Knicks did the dirty work to get to 3-0 -- now they just have to deliver the finishing blow to grab four games and send the Celtics packing. Here's what the Knicks need to do in Game 5 in order to break through the conference semifinals glass ceiling:
1. My Name Is Earl - J.R. Smith, the newly minted Sixth Man of the Year, was missed during Game 4 as Jason Terry, a former Sixth Man recipient, went to work on the Knicks. Smith needs to come back to the court with a chip on his shoulder after being suspended for elbowing Terry in the nose during Game 4. The league took away his chance to bring a sweep Boston and bring pride to New York. His sharpshooting and energy will be crucial for Game 5.2. Charity Stripe Accuracy - The Celtics out-shot the Knicks 87.5 percent to 75 percent from the free-throw line in Game 4. The missed free throws that hurt the most were three in the fourth when Carmelo Anthony went 2-for-5. Two of those could have broken the tie at 82 with 1:50 left in the fourth. Crucial shots like those are the difference between closing the book on this series or another trip to TD Garden. Melo and the rest of the team need to step up to the line and sink shots.
3. Home Cooking- Madison Square Garden can be the greatest place to win and the roughest place to lose. Knicks fans have a high basketball I.Q. and are never afraid to tell you what they think. The only thing on fans' minds right now is winning. The Knicks need to invoke the crowd's thirst for victory and translate that into a win and a ticket to advance.
If the Knicks deliver a first-round knockout to the Celtics, this squad has the chance to go down in Knickerbocker lore. They will have delivered a city of lights out of the darkness. Whether they continue on to the NBA Finals or not, this squad will be winners in the Big Apple.
4. Sharing Is Caring- Melo on an isolation play is a pretty thing to watch, but it does the Knicks no good. According to ESPN Stats and Info, in Game 4, he isolated 49 percent of possessions compared to Game 2 when he isolated 26 percent, and the Knicks were plus-22 with a definitive win. Long story short: Melo needs to give up the ball. There's a time when a star player needs to take control but for the majority of the game, Melo needs to share the wealth and make sure everyone eats.
5. The Real Steve Novak- Will the real Novak stand up? The 2011-12 regular season 3-point champ has been totally absent from beyond the arc in this series. In the last four games, he's been 3-for-6 from 3. He's done that in single games before. If Novak puts on his imaginary belt and steps up to match Terry's 3-point firepower, the Knicks will have that extra edge they need in Game 5.
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