"I was kind of blank, always dizzy and foggy." That statement by a flu-ridden Tyson Chandler after Game 1 of the New York Knicks-Miami Heat series pretty much summed up the performance of his whole team in their disastrous 100-67 loss on Saturday. Chandler's illness resulted in a zero-point, seven-turnover game for the center. A healthy Carmelo Anthony wasn't much better (11 points, on 3-for-15 shooting). Baron Davis' back felt as good as Chandler's head. And with the devastating injury to Iman Shumpert, the Knicks' playoff prospects went from somewhat hopeful to helpless and hapless almost before the postseason began. It ain't over till it's over -- but it all pretty much ended before the first game did. Their 67 point output was the franchise's lowest playoff point total in the shot-clock era. And their defense was just as lacking. It wasn't possible to have a worse start to the playoffs.
The Game 2 104-94 loss showed a little more promise, a little more spark, a little more hope. Chandler wasn't as woozy, Anthony scored 30 points and the team's performance was at least above the embarrassment level. But all of that meant that they lost by 10 points instead of 33. The Heat's stars took turns dominating the game, their role players played their role to perfection and Miami's defense was more stifling than the Knicks' own Mike Woodson-inspired D. Not one Knick has performed up to expectations, let alone exceeded them, as of yet. And this game's fresh disaster came later in the evening, when a frustrated Amar'e Stoudemire punched a glass casing of a fire extinguisher, and ultimately needed hand surgery. If Shumpert's torn ACL was a tough break, Stoudemire's injury will go down in the annals of stupidity. So after two games, the Knicks were already a catastrophe, a calamity, a washout, a flameout, a fiasco, a mess and a miscarriage of basketball -- take your pick.
Chandler was presented with the Defensive Player of the Year Award before Game 3, and this game might have hurt most of all. The 87-70 loss was the franchise's 13th straight, which broke the Grizzlies' NBA record, but of more immediate concern, it pretty much sealed their fate in this series. After looking like they would be blown out, the Knicks suddenly turned things around and steamrolled over the Heat for a long stretch of the first half, opening up a nine-point lead -- but they then completely fell apart. The 18 turnovers didn't help. Zero points from Steve Novak didn't help. Anthony's 7-for-23 shooting didn't help. Nor did J.R. Smith's 5-for-18 shooting. They're still breathing, with another chance on Sunday, but unless they pull out a miracle, this series will forever be remembered for Stoudemire's fist of fury.
And now on to the other top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
2-1: Accolades continued to pour in for the New York Rangers this week, with Henrik Lundqvist being a nominee for the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award while John Tortorella is a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, but more importantly their second-round matchup with the Washington Capitals began. Though they were running on fumes, the Blueshirts came out victorious in Game 1, 3-1, even though they could only muster up 14 shots on goal. But it was the three that went into the net that counted, and again it was uber-rookie Chris Kreider who notched the game-winner. Both teams blocked 15 shots, both teams played it safe, but the Rangers did just enough to win, which included killing off a long penalty, with a stretch of being down two men. It was one dumb penalty of their own that did them in, though, in Game 2. After coming back from a two-goal deficit, and killing off a Brian Boyle penalty, Brad Richards headed to the penalty box, and the result was an Alex Ovechkin game-winning goal. The Caps out-shot-blocked the Rangers, 24-14, and are playing the same similar, patient game that the Blueshirts employ. And speaking of playing similar, patient games, there was Game 3 -- the game that seemed like it would never end. But after almost two full games worth of game (1:54:41 to be exact), Marian Gaborik took a pass from Richards and ended the damn thing (as Bob Murphy might have said), with Gaborik now joining overtime legends Stephane Matteau and Pete Stemkowski. How even was it? The Rangers outshot the Capitals 49-46, blocked 41 shots to Washington's 40, the Caps won 51 face-offs to the Rangers' 49 and Lundqvist made 45 saves to Braden Holtby's 47. Ryan McDonagh played an amazing 53 minutes and 17 seconds, while Ryan Callahan, who scored the first goal, was all over the ice blocking shots and hitting Capitals. As usual. Boyle summed it up best: "Playoff hockey. It's what you dream about as a kid, right? And then it was like none of us wanted the dream to end, like we would be out there forever."
2-1 (too): The New Jersey Devils were dominated for long stretches of Game 1 in their semifinals series vs. the Philadelphia Flyers, they made too many mistakes (including a Martin Brodeur turnover), they committed too many penalties and they lost, 4-3, in their third consecutive overtime game; though New Jersey was the one dominating much of the first two periods in Game 2, they couldn't figure out how to get the puck past Ilya Bryzgalov, they were without Ilya Kovalchuk, who was on the shelf with a back injury, and nothing they tried was working -- but then came the third period, when they exploded for four goals and took over the momentum of the series with a 4-1 win. Adam Larsson netted his first career playoff goal to tie the game, and David Clarkson put home the game-winner, with the lasting image of the gritty forward flying on top of the net, to boot. The momentum carried over to Game 3, with the inspirational return of Kovalchuk. And what a return it was. He assisted on the first Devil goal, scored by Patrik Elias, and 20 seconds later netted one of his own (for the fastest two goals in New Jersey playoff history). And the finishing touch on his stellar night was a perfect, long pass to Alexei Ponikarovsky, catching the Flyers on a bad line change, who put the puck in the back of the net on his own rebound. The Devils are now in complete control of the series, which continues on Sunday night.
The End? Another freaky injury, but this time it wasn't from punching an inanimate object. This one occurred during the innocence of shagging a fly ball. And it occurred to one of the greatest New York Yankees of them all: Mariano Rivera, who tore his ACL before Thursday's game and is out for the season. It would surely be sad if this is how his career ends. This news overshadows everything else that happened to the Yanks this week, of course, but we might as well recap.The Bombers began the week with a pair of poor starting pitching performances but came out with a split. They survived Ivan Nova's mediocrity when Derek Jeter scooted home with the winning run on a passed ball in Friday's victory over the Detroit Tigers. But they couldn't overcome Freddy Garcia's putridity in Saturday's loss, which earned the veteran a spot in the bullpen. But the Yanks pushed the reset button on their rotation and got two consecutive outstanding starting efforts, with CC Sabathia throwing eight solid innings on Sunday in the 6-2 win, while Alex Rodriguez passed Willie Mays on the all-time RBI list. On Monday, it was Hiroki Kuroda's turn to shine in the 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles -- he lasted seven innings, only allowing a run, which meant Eric Chavez's two-run home run was all the offense he would need. But it was back to mediocrity on Tuesday, when Phil Hughes continued his struggles in the 7-1 loss. And Nova was a mixed bag on Wednesday -- solid for six innings but Garcia-like in the seventh (Garcia himself threw two scoreless relief innings, though) in the 5-0 loss. And it seems like nobody in the lineup can hit anymore, as they only totaled three runs in the series loss to the Orioles. Their week ended on Thursday, with David Phelps making his first major league start, losing 4-3 to the Kansas City Royals. And Rivera's injury was just one of many this week, as Nick Swisher strained his hamstring and Chavez had to be put on the DL with a concussion. Not a good week for the Yankees.
The Adventurous Amazin's: Now that we're one month into the season, there's one thing we've learned about the 2012 New York Mets -- they're an adventure. Sometimes in a good way, other times bad. The bottom of the fifth inning of last Friday's 18-9 loss was one of the worst innings played in the history of baseball. And I don't think that's an exaggeration. The Mets committed four errors (tying a club record), gave up a pair of three-run homers and allowed a total of 11 runs (also tying a team mark). Yes, somewhere in that debacle Scott Hairston became the 10th Met to hit for the cycle, but the loss brings to mind the old joke from 1962: "Did you see that the Mets scored nine runs last night?" "Did they win?" Saturday's 7-5 win was a little more routine, but on Sunday, they were at it again, though they pulled out a 6-5 victory. After Johan Santana threw six shutout innings, and the offense built a 4-0 lead, the usually reliable duo of Jon Rauch and Tim Byrdak gave it all back on a Todd Helton grand slam. The Mets took the lead once again, and once again the bullpen (in the form of Frank Francisco) coughed it right back up. But finally, Ike Davis, who is slowly breaking out of his slump, drove in the winning run in the 11th. The next three games of the week were a battle of 50th-anniversary teams, when the Mets traveled to Houston (those 1962 Colt .45s won 24 more games than the Amazin's, by the way, and featured future Met Bob Aspromonte). And just when the Mets give you a spark of hope that they may be better than expected, with two bounce-back wins in Colorado after a debacle of a loss, they turn around and get swept by the Astros.
Future New York Giants: After selecting running back David Wilson in the first round, here is the rest of Big Blue's draft from the weekend: LSU WR Rueben Randle, Virginia Tech CB Jayron Hosley, Auburn T Brandon Mosley, Cincinnati TE Adrien Robinson, Alabama-Birmingham T Matt McCants and North Carolina State DT Markus Kuhn. They also extended Mathias Kiwanuka through 2015. Osi Umenyiora is still waiting, though.
Future New York Jets: And here is the remainder of Gang Green's draft after going with Quinton Coples in the first round: Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill, Arkansas State LB Demario Davis, Wake Forest S Josh Bush, Baylor RB Terrance Ganaway, Baylor G Robert T. Griffin, South Carolina S Antonio Allen and Western Michigan WR Jordan White. At least they didn't take a quarterback.
The Brooklyn Nets: The new logo is here! It's simple, it's old-school (with a nod to the Brooklyn Dodgers' "B"), it's not a gaudy Miami Marlins-like eye-sore -- but, unfortunately, it kind of looks like it was created by an 11-year-old who won a contest. But it could have been worse.
You Can't Handle the Truth: An uncomfortable-looking Andy Pettitte took the stand in the trial of his former friend Roger Clemens this week, and he agreed that, yes, he may have "misremembered" what Clemens told him all those years ago. Why do I have the feeling the trial will end with Clemens raging, "You're Goddamned right I called the Code Red!"
R.I.P. Moose Skowron: Last Friday, former Yankee William Joseph "Moose" Skowron died at the age of 81. The crew-cutted first baseman won four World Series with the Bombers in his nine seasons playing in the Bronx (1954-'62). He also won a championship with the Dodgers, played in eight All-Star Games and is one of only two players to have hit three home runs in Game 7's of the World Series. In the last five years of his career he played for Los Angeles, the Washington Senators, the Chicago White Sox and the California Angels. He hit 211 home runs, with 888 RBIs, and finished with a .282/.332/.459 line, an OPS+ of 119 and a 26.8 WAR. Skowron also got a mention in an episode of Seinfeld, when Kramer started a brawl at a Yankees fantasy camp when he plunked Joe Pepitone, who was crowding the plate a little too much for Kramer's liking. Skowron, Clete Boyer, Hank Bauer and other former Yankees charged the mound, which all resulted in Kramer decking Mickey Mantle (yes, I'm writing this as if it actually happened).
And that's the New York week that was.