Friday , Apr , 23 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Playoff Notebook: The Knicks are close to going on vacation

(Sports Network) – The New York Knicks fell to the New Jersey Nets, 81-78,
on Thursday in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal set at Madison
Square Garden. With the loss, the Knicks are down 3-0 in the best-of-seven
series.

Stephon Marbury finished with 18 points and 10 assists for the Knicks, who
trailed by as much as 14 early in the final stanza. Anfernee Hardaway and Nazr
Mohammed each contributed 18 points in the loss, while Kurt Thomas netted 15
and grabbed 12 boards for New York.

The Knicks were a brutal 11-of-22 from the foul line in the loss.

“That can’t happen in the playoffs,” said New York swingman Anfernee Hardaway
after Thursday’s loss. “I think I missed two of them myself in the first half.
You have to make those free throws.”

New Jersey controlled the boards in Game 3, outrebounding the Knicks by a
49-39 margin.

“Anytime that the other team gets the ball back it means they get twice as
many opportunities at the basket,” said New York head coach Lenny Wilkens. “We
were giving help but there were some long rebounds and those are the ones you
really want to get. Your defensive effort gets wasted when they can get long
rebounds and get another shot at the basket.”

New York has never been able to overcome a 3-0 series deficit in its history,
failing three times. In the 1951 NBA Finals, the Knicks won three straight
before finally losing to the Rochester Royals in seven games. The other
two occasions, the Knicks were swept by the Philadelphia 76ers.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Hardaway about being down 3-0. “They (Nets) are
a good team. They came in here knowing that if we had won game three, game
four would have been crazy. We knew the same, but they came in and took care
of business in the second half, again. The third quarter we just couldn’t make
baskets, they got back into the game and went into the fourth quarter up ten –
that’s what good teams do.”

Marbury has tried to take the Knicks on his back against the Nets. He
has averaged 18 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists in the first three
contests.

“Steph (Marbury) is trying to be a leader,” said Mohammed. “He is trying to go
out there and distribute the ball and he is trying to be a scorer. He is in a
tough situation right now. He is our scorer and our point guard.”

The Knicks have been unable to control the boards and have been simply
overmatched by New Jersey, which has outrebounded New York 131-117 in the
first three games of the series.

“We have to block out,” said Mohammed. “He (Kenyon Martin) has done a great
job of rebounding, but no one on their team has really had big rebounding
games. That is how it is sometimes. One guy does a great job, but you still
have to keep other guys off the boards.”

Wilkens knows that in order to keep the Knicks’ season alive, his team will
have to play tough defense. He saw some flashes of that in Game 3.

“I’ve told them that we have to contest every shot and play good defense,”
said Wilkens. “If you can’t play good defense, then you can’t play. Every team
I’ve coached has been a pretty good defensive team and the Knicks will become
a good defensive team as well. They showed that they’re capable and once we
see that a team is capable, we expect nothing less.”

The Knicks, who lost in the first round of the 2001 postseason in five games,
3-2, to the Toronto Raptors, were last swept in the opening round of the 1991
playoffs by the Chicago Bulls, 3-0.

Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday at Madison Square Garden. A Knicks win would
force a Game 5, which would be played on Wednesday, April 28 at Continental
Airlines Arena.

“You just have to come out and play hard and leave it all out there,” said
Thomas. “It’s going to come down to either win or go home, so we have to go
out and give it all.”

NJ NY