Another loss, another Knicks injury -- this one self-inflicted
MIAMI -- This should have been just another lost night for the Knicks, who have suffered plenty of them over the last 11 years, but it turned into something far more troubling when forward Amar'e Stoudemire slashed open his left hand by slamming it in frustration against a glass-encased fire extinguisher on his way to the locker room Monday following the Heat's 104-94 win.
"I am so mad at myself right now," Stoudemire tweeted after he left AmericanAirlines Arena. "I want to apologize to the fans and my team, not proud of my actions, headed home for a new start."
The Knicks lost shooting guard Iman Shumpert to a torn ACL in Game 1, forcing them to start Landry Fields (1-of-5 for two points) in Game 2. If Stoudemire is unable to play, then Jared Jeffries (0-for-4 in less than four minutes Monday) will likely shift into the starting frontcourt for Game 3 Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
"We just know that he has a laceration, and he's probably going to be out," said Knicks center Tyson Chandler. "Your emotions run high. In a split-second, a decision can alter things. You can't fault anybody. We've got to deal with the repercussions."
The Heat are up 2-0 in their opening-round series, and Stoudemire's outburst may have made their prospects easier. One after another their most dangerous opponents are receding. First came the injury to Boston's Ray Allen, sidelining him indefinitely. Then there was the horrible news of impending knee surgery for Chicago's Derrick Rose. And now, an hour after his team tied an NBA record with its 12th straight postseason loss, there emerged from the visitors' locker room the silhouette of 6-foot-11 Stoudemire, dressed in a hoodie and a sling, his left hand wrapped thick with bandages as he was escorted by security guards to the team bus. He provided no comment to the reporters who tried to follow him.
Stoudemire received stitches to the fleshy part of his non-shooting hand, just below the pinky. (The Knicks were unable to report how many stitches he received.) He was treated by doctors representing both the Knicks and Heat. A trail of blood could be seen on the carpeted floor of the visitors' locker room. Further tests were expected to be done after the team's arrival in New York early Tuesday morning.
Isn't this one of the last pieces of news the Knicks could afford?
"Absolutely, man," said Carmelo Anthony, who led everyone with 30 points. "I better not put that in words, but it's a tough situation. It seems like it's always something happening -- snake bit. But at this point, it is what it is. We've got to move forward."
Was Stoudemire frustrated by the limitations of his lingering back injury? Was he angered by his secondary role? The six-time All-Star attempted nine shots while generating 18 points and seven rebounds in 41 minutes against the Heat, who pulled free in Game 2 by sharing the ball in a way that the Knicks were unable to duplicate. Dwyane Wade (25 points), Chris Bosh (21) and LeBron James (19) contributed to a group effort in which a half-dozen Miami players scored in double figures. They shot 52.1 percent overall while generating 28 assists among their 38 field goals.
The Knicks haven't won a playoff game since 2001, and they hoped to end that streak in Game 2, despite their discouraging 100-67 loss in the opener here Saturday. After going 3-for-15 in that game, Anthony revealed his aggressive strategy on the opening possession Monday. When he tried to pass from the frontcourt and James slapped the ball back his way, Anthony shrugged and canned a difficult turnaround jumper to launch his night of scoring.
Anthony was a spectacular 9-of-18 for 21 points in the first half to keep his Knicks within 53-47, despite the efficiency of Miami's approach. At that time Anthony's teammates were an unimpressive 38 percent from the floor (11-for-29).
Thereafter, Anthony had more trouble working his way open as the Heat held him to 3-of-8 in the second half. "They weren't going to allow me to go out there and score 40 or 50 points or anything like that," he said. "That's a good defense out there."
Stoudemire was 4-of-6 from the field and 4-of-7 from the line in 22 second-half minutes. Many have wondered whether he and the Knicks would be better served by bringing him off the bench in order to generate more shots for Stoudemire with the second unit while Anthony is resting on the bench. Such issues became more relevant when Stoudemire lost control of his emotions following a game in which he served as a secondary outlet on offense.
"Amar'e is a huge piece to this team," Chandler said. "Without him it will make it more difficult. We already lost one player in the starting lineup."
The absence of Shumpert's athleticism forced the Knicks to lean more heavily on point guard Baron Davis, himself dealing with back issues. But Davis shot from range and penetrated impressively for 12 points and six assists. The Knicks also received 13 points from backup shooting guard J.R. Smith, who attempted 11 shots -- two more than Stoudemire.
"For me there is no frustration," Smith said. "I don't think there should be. They took care of home court, did what they were supposed to do. We just have to come out and win at our place and make it a series. Give them a good fight for it. We can still win. We have to keep our heads up."
The Knicks were trying to focus on the gains they made with this performance. "We made some positive strides tonight," Anthony said. "It's our time now. We're motivated. Our confidence ain't going nowhere."
But those ambitious words sounded hollow amid the uncertainty created by Stoudemire's self-inflicted wound. Was Stoudemire frustrated on behalf of his team? Or was he infuriated by his failure to play a larger role? His incident invites all kinds of speculation at a time when the Knicks must play to their highest level. They're facing an opponent that has been locked into the goal of winning a championship for the last two years. As the list of opponents' casualties grows, Miami's path to that goal looks more and more likely.