It is “the most famous arena in the world”, “Mecca”, the most magnificent stage in sports.
Madison Square Garden produces an atmosphere unlike any other in the NBA. But that charm also leads to visitors being invited to career-defining shows.
Two years ago, the Knicks hosted the Hawks in Game 5 of a first-round series, hoping to avoid elimination. At first, “De-Fense!” The cheers were loud. In the end, the organ sang louder than the 16,512 fans, soothed by a 103-89 Atlanta victory. Clint Capella came to New York, vowing to “send [the Knicks] in vacation.” Departing as the newest villain in town, Young bowed to the crowd and waved goodbye in the middle of the court in the final minute of the match.
“I know there are a bunch of offers around this city and I know what they’re going to do when the show is over,” Young said after putting up 36 points and nine assists.
Tonight, the Knicks return to the park to try to salvage their season in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Heat, but it’s unclear if the home court will provide an advantage.
The Knicks lost the series opener at home despite Jimmy Butler’s ankle injury in the fourth quarter. They barely held Game 2 despite Butler’s absence. This season, the Knicks have been better on the road (24-17) than they have been at home (23-18).
The Rangers were also better on the road (24-9-8) than they were on the park (23-13-5), losing control of the first-round series in their back-to-back home losses to the Devils.
“It’s always better to play at home if you give them things to be happy about,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said last month. “But if you’re counting on them to win the game, they can’t win the game for you.”
In 2013, the Knicks extended their season with a Game 5 victory over the Pacers – only to be eliminated in the second round in a Game 6 on the road.
But many funerals have been held on the Garden Floor for more accomplished and experienced rosters than this current group, following Patrick Ewing’s finger roll (Game 7, 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals), Avery Johnson’s jump (Game 5, 1999 NBA Finals), Reggie Miller’s Vengeance (Game 6, 2000 Eastern Conference Finals) and Dagger Alvin Williams (Game 5, 2001 First Round).
Unlike the Hawks, there is no need to talk about the Heat family. Their four-year run with Butler speaks volumes. Led the Heat to improbable Finals in 2020, then came up in one of their repeats last year. In the first round, Butler scored 42 points in Milwaukee to eliminate the top seed Bucks. In Game 4 against the Knicks, he had 27 points and 10 assists.
In Game 5, “Playoff Jimmy” — one of the best postseason performers of all time — takes to the biggest stage in sports.
So, who has the preference?
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Welcome back, Gary
Gary Sanchez will try to revive his career in the city where he started.
The former Yankees catcher signed to a minor league contract with the Mets on Tuesday morning and will report to Triple A Syracuse.
Sanchez, 30, walked out on his contract with the Giants last week after failing to get a call-up from Triple-A Sacramento, hitting . 164 with one extra base hit in 16 games. Sanchez’s deal with San Francisco allowed him to leave if he did not reach the majors by May 1.
Sanchez, who spent parts of seven seasons with the Yankees, had one of the most touching debut campaigns of all time, hitting 20 hits in 53 games in 2016. He was named an All-Star in 2017 and 2019, striking out 77 Combined home runs in the two seasons. But his dreadful defense and boom or bust — after hitting . 284 in his first two seasons, he hit a total of . 202 from 2018 to 2022 — landed him a ticket to Minnesota on a trade before last season.
With the Twins, he hit . 205 with 16 home runs, leaving Sanchez without major league favorites in the offseason.
The Mets, who have the best prospect on Francisco Alvarez — who hit two home runs in Tuesday’s 7-6 loss at Cincinnati, and hit . 348 in his past nine games — split time with Tomas Nido behind the plate while Omar Narváez recovers from a calf injury. Dynasty, found some success in the past bringing in ex-Yankees whose best days seemed behind them (Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colón, Orlando Hernandez).
Every so often, though, the Mets find out why former contributors are available across town (Robinson Cano, Dellin Betances, Cameron Maybin, Bobby Abreu, Gary Sheffield, Karim Garcia, Willie Randolph, Ralph Terry) .
lion in winter
LeBron James was 22 and averaging 44.7 minutes per game when he pulled Cleveland’s starting lineup of Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Eric Snow to the 2007 NBA Finals.
In the 2009 NBA Playoffs, he averaged 35.3 points. In the 2015 NBA Finals, he almost made it to the Cavaliers despite injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
James shot 56.5 percent from the field on his way to the 2017 NBA Finals. He averaged 34 points and nine assists in the race to the 2018 NBA Finals.
For most of his career, James’ unmatched supremacy has made his team an automatic contender for the NBA title.
At 38 years old, there wasn’t enough of him anymore, but he never looked to win his fifth ring.
On Wednesday night, the Lakers have a chance to take down the defending champion Warriors in San Francisco, taking them to a 3-1 series lead in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
The visual is somewhat surreal.
James is not the best player in the series (Stephen Curry). He’s not the hottest player on the Lakers (Anthony Davis). He is a 20-year-old veteran who needs to choose his positions and conserve energy, who allows others to bring the ball in with pleasure, and who often stands to the side while players facilitate the attack.
After so many years of letting his support team down, James has never been asked to do less.
In the first quarter of Game 3 against Golden State, he did not shoot.
In the Lakers’ seven playoff victories, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer has led the team in scoring only once. It came in Game 4 against the Warriors: James shot 10-of-25 from the field, and the Lakers only avoided a series tie because Lonnie Walker IV — out of rotation as recently as two games prior — scored all 15 of his points in the fourth quarter in a 104-101 win.
Davis held the Lakers to victory in Games 1 and 3. Rui Hachimura opened the postseason with 29 points in a road win against the second seed Grizzlies, and D’Angelo Russell rounded out the game with 31 first-round points. Austin Reeves has been a revelation.
In 276 postseason games, James averaged 28.5 points, 9 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 41.3 minutes, shooting 49.4 percent from the field and 33.1 percent on three-pointers. This postseason, he averaged 22.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 36.3 minutes, shooting 47 percent from the field and 22.9 percent from 3.
However, the seventh-seeded Lakers are now tied with the Nuggets for the best odds (+300 on Caesars) to win the NBA title, after the Celtics lost at home to the 76ers – who lead 3-2 in the series – Tuesday night in Game 5 of the series. Second round. The Lakers would be the lowest ranked team ever to win an NBA title.
Meanwhile, Curry is staring at the end of the Golden State dynasty despite still playing as one of the 15 greatest players of all time.
His assists in winning four titles — the kind James would envy during Finals showdowns with the Curry/Kevin Durant super team — have faded and disappeared.
Klay Thompson is a veined shooter who struggles to create his own shot. Draymond Green rarely looks for his shot. Andrew Wiggins has yet to recapture last year’s breakout form. Jordan Paul has become unplayable.
Incredibly, James may not need to be at his best — neither Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1988 nor Tim Duncan in 2014 — to win another ring.
He may not even need to be at his best to continue building his case as the best of the best.