This is the finish my friend, this is the end;
It’s a revolution, live in revenge.
There’s no need to move or adjust your television.
Whenever an era dies, another era begins…
— B.o.B, “NY, NY”
There should be no celebration this time. Let’s just acknowledge what was supposed to be the result of this season all along: The Knicks are in the playoffs again.
It became official when the Milwaukee Bucks dropped a 118-109 loss in Indiana on Thursday night, which eliminated any chance of them catching the Knicks (33-29) in the Eastern Conference playoff standings by virtue of the NBA tiebreaker format.
Just think only nine days ago, the Knicks were trailing by eight points in the fourth quarter in Milwaukee and faced the reality of falling out of the East playoff bracket. They rallied to win that night, 111-107, in a game that now stands out as the most important victory of the season…to date.
Let’s re-emphasize: The Knicks were supposed to make the playoffs. So what they’ve accomplished so far — though this 15-5 run under Mike Woodson is impressive — is merely to meet expectations. Going into Friday night’s games, the Knicks still were mathematically in play to finish as high as the fifth seed, but they could finish as low as eighth.
OK, with all of this acknowledged now (we’ll save the potential matchup conversation for a later date), let’s take a moment to point out something that is worth celebrating: The official end of an era.
The Bucks loss clinched a second straight postseason trip, which will mark the first time in 11 years that the Knicks earned consecutive berths. It was during the Patrick Ewing era that the team made 14 straight trips to the playoffs, from 1987-88 to 2000-01. Coincidentally (or not), once the Ewing era ended, the run of playoff appearances quickly came to an end, too.
Ewing was traded in 2000, the team made the playoffs in 2000-01 and then saw the postseason only once (2004) in a nine year span from 2001-10.
That is the second-worst drought in franchise history, after a 12 season run from 1955-56 to 1965-66 saw just two playoff appearances.
But perhaps Wednesday’s victory in New Jersey, which provided the 33rd win of the 66-game season, provided an equally important accomplishment. It clinched at least a .500 finish, which may be a modest result, but not when you consider recent history.
The Knicks haven’t had consecutive non-losing seasons since, again, 2000-01, which was the last of nine-straight winning seasons.
After that season, the Knicks had posted nine straight losing records, including the 2003-04 campaign (39-43) that resulted in a playoff berth. That run ended last season when Mike D’Antoni’s Knicks finished 42-40. Mike Woodson has the team four games over .500 and aiming for more.
The Knicks are also 21-11 at home, which is their best winning percentage (.656) at The Garden since the 2000-01 season. One of the most important missions in creating a new era was to re-establish The Garden as a home court and not a personal showcase stage for visiting stars (see: LeBron, Kobe, Paul Pierce and, when he arrives next week, Blake Griffin), which is what it became in the 2000s.
Much like losing became the ugly stain of the past decade, winning is what establishes not only the end of that era, but the beginning of a new one. But it takes more than just one season, one playoff berth, to put separation between the eras. And before Woodson took the helm, this team looked destined for a losing record and there was a very real potential to miss the playoffs.
So we can now call this a new era. One that will have stars Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler here for at least another three to five years. One that has some intriguing young talent, such as Jeremy Lin and Iman Shumpert, as well. One that has major decisions to make at head coach and in the front office this offseason, as well.
This is still the beginning of this new era. But the good news is, it also is the end of the old one.
What this new era needs now is another long-awaited achievement: Winning a playoff series, which hasn’t been done since Ewing left.
Actually, winning a playoff game would be a good start. It’s been 11 years.