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Really now: Did anyone really think the Knicks would beat the Celtics in this series? If you had to pick between "Knicks win series" and "Knicks swept," you'd take the latter every time.
Oh, maybe you thought the Knicks could swipe a game or two -- make it interesting. And in Games 1 and 2, they did. Games 3 and 4, back in New York, they were not nearly as good, as if they knew they had no chance. In Game 3, they truly believed it; in Game 4, at least they figured out it was worth putting up a fight.
The Knicks get graded on a curve, for some reason. (No, it's a fairly obvious reason: It's New York. It's the Knicks. It's Carmelo + Amare + Spike + MSG + Media Market.)
But I have a hard time imagining this team ever being a true contender -- by that I mean very simply: A team that has a legitimate chance of winning the NBA title.
Knicks fans shouldn't be offended by that -- in any given year in the NBA, about 3-4 teams MAX get that designation.
If you aren't winning the title, you better be relevant. And this season, the Knicks became relevant. But they are closer to the Nets than the Celtics when it comes to being a contender.
Perhaps if the Knicks were entirely healthy -- Amare totally healthy, Billups able to play -- the series would have been very different. Maybe they win a game. Maybe two. But not four.
"But not four."
That feels like it is the Knicks' lot in 2011, Year 1 of the Carmelo-Will-Save-Us campaign. And 2012 -- the Celtics feel like they have one more in 'em, not to mention the Bulls and Heat. In 2013 and 2014, the C's are done, but the Bulls and Heat (and Thunder and whoever snags Dwight Howard -- the Nets???) are going to be much better than the Knicks.
Oh, maybe the Knicks get to the point where they earn a top 4 seed in the East during the regular season, then win four to get to the conference semis. But can anyone see them winning four to get past that?
The relevance of the Knicks in the 2011 NBA Playoffs is foreshadowing. So is getting bounced.