A few days ago, it was a simple task to envision the New York Knicks making the playoffs. In fact, the Knicks found themselves in position for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after they manhandled the Brooklyn Nets in a 29-point victory. Now, trying to imagine a scenario in which the Knicks could make the playoffs is a incredibly more difficult, if not impossible. Since the Knicks dispensed with the Nets' attempts to defeat them, they have gone on to drop two successive games, with their latest defeat coming on Sunday courtesy of the Miami Heat and being on the wrong end of a 102-91 final score. That loss has sent the Knicks' probability of making the postseason into a precipitous decline, landing it into a hole that might be too deep for the Knicks to dig out of.
Against a team of the caliber of the Miami Heat, the New York Knicks simply do not have a great margin of error, and in Sunday's contest, the Knicks made too many mistakes and the Heat played too well for the hope to be realized that the Knicks would be able to right their ship and keep it on course for the postseason. Eventually, although the Knicks were able to hang with the Heat for the first three quarters of the game, the Heat established their supremacy and demonstrated why they are the superior team, beginning towards the tail end of the third period.
The Knicks were only trailing by a couple of points as late as the 10:55 mark in the third quarter, but the Heat used the last 1:05 of the quarter to begin to distance themselves, scoring 6 points over that time span while the Knicks were busy going 0 for 4 from the field.
Having picked up some momentum and created some space between themselves and the Knicks, the Heat pressed their advantage in the fourth quarter and built up a 15-point lead with 8:51 remaining in the game, basically sealing the victory. The Knicks made a couple of feeble comeback attempts as the clock wound down, but they were not able to get any closer than six points before time ran out of their chances of winning the game; time also most likely ran out on their chances of catching the Atlanta Hawks.
The defeat the Knicks suffered came despite the best efforts of Knicks guard J.R. Smith to keep them in the game by virtue of a prolific shooting night; of course, that claim is operating under the assumption that Smith's NBA-record 22 three-point attempts were actually all for the benefit of the team and not just because he likes to shoot as often as possible. Smith is infamous for his remorselessness when it comes to taking shots whether or not they fit within the flaw of his team's offense, but against the Heat, most of his attempts were not of the "what was he thinking shooting that shot at that time of the game" variety.
The high number of three-point attempts were made more palatable by the fact that Smith connected on 10 of them and was far and away the most potent Knicks offensive player, scoring 32 points and producing 120 points per 100 possessions while carrying a team-high 32.5 usage percentage; no other Knicks player scored more than 15 points.
Instead of hoisting up a multitude of three-pointers, however, Smith, along with his fellow teammates, would have been well-advised to focus more of his efforts on the defensive side. A lack of defensive cohesion plagued the Knicks on Sunday just like it has plagued them for the majority of the season and the Heat had little trouble putting up points, ending the game having scored 123.7 points per 100 possessions; LeBron James did LeBron James things and ended up with 38 points and having produced 125 points per 100 possessions.
The Knicks now have four games left on their schedule to make up their two-game deficit on the Atlanta Hawks. Nothing they have done in the last two contests inspires much confidence that they will be able to manage such a feat.