It's been a long time for fans of the New York Knicks, seven years to be exact, but the long waiting is over as one of the most storied franchises in sports is heading back to the playoffs for the first time since 2004 thanks to a 123-107 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Somewhat of a laughing stock of the league in recent years the Knicks took extreme steps in the past 10 months to change that perception around, acquiring a pair of All-Star talents in Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony to lead them back to success.
"This is exactly where I expected to be… in the playoffs," Amar'e Stoudemire said following the Knicks' victory over the Cavaliers Sunday night at the Garden. "This was the goal when I signed here. I sat down with Mr. Dolan and said this is our plan. The plan has come into full motion and now it is time to take the momentum into the playoffs."
The road to the playoffs haven't been smooth as the team has struggled of late getting used to playing with Anthony, but now that they have clinched a spot, they can focus on getting ready for their first round match-up. That match-up, which promises to be against Boston, Miami or Chicago, is going to take the best the Knicks can muster and then some to get past.
But that's a problem for down the road. For now the Knicks are just happy to be back in the mix.
"At this point it really doesn't matter," Anthony said. "It's not going to be easy. Regardless of who we play I'm not too concerned with who we match up with.”
"I think everybody should be excited that Knicks basketball is back, that the standards are higher now and every year this is something we should be looking forward to, which is making the playoffs."
The win against the Cavaliers, the Knicks first this season and first in 12 games vs. Cleveland, was no gimme as the Cavs kept clawing back from big deficients to make a game of it. In the end though, it was key mistakes in clutch situations that allowed the Knicks to earn the win.
"Tonight we were just very careless with the basketball pretty much all game long," Cavs coach Byron Scott said. "We did a much better job in the second quarter which got us back into the game, but second half 14 turnovers is way too much against this team. It gives them a chance to get in the open floor and make easy baskets."
Sitting at 38-38, New York doesn't have the look of a juggernaut but one thing is for certain about this Knicks team, they have the look of a playoff team and more importantly, they are a playoff team.
"It's mission accomplished” Stoudemire said. “and now on to the next one."
Photo Courtesy of: AP Images