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2012-2013: The Season the Knicks Almost Won a Championship

For most of the decade, the New York Knicks have been the laughing stock of the NBA. Being a disappointing team in the NBA is one thing, but a struggling team in one of the biggest markets in the world leaves millions of fans in displeasure. With the Knicks not being relevant since Carmelo Anthony was in his prime, the fans are desperate for the team to be in contention once again.

Between 2010 and 2020, the Knicks only made three playoff appearances, and their best overall team came in the 2012/2013 season. With elite big man Amar’e Stoudemire only playing 29 games in the regular season due to injury, how far could the Knicks have gone with a healthy Stoudemire?

The 2012-2013 season was Stoudemire’s third year with the Knicks, and the team was aiming to make their third straight playoff appearance. In the two previous seasons, the team had very little success in the playoffs getting swept by Celtics in the 2010-2011 season and losing 4-1 in the 2011-2012 season to the Miami Heat.

For the Knicks to advance past the first round in the 2012-2013 season, many believed Stoudemire would need to regain most of the production he had earlier in his career with the Phoenix Suns. 

At the beginning of the season, it was nothing new for the elite big men, as Stoudemire started the season on the sidelines. He missed the first 30 games of the season with a knee injury, and he was not able to make his first appearance for the Knicks until January.

In early March, he continued to have knee issues and had to be sidelined for the rest of the regular season with right knee debridement. 

Even with the injuries to Stoudemire for most of the season, the Knicks still were able to finish with the second best record in the Eastern Conference at 54-28. Plenty of credit should go to Carmelo Anthony, who led the league in scoring that year with 28.7 points per game. Carmelo was evidently the leader of the Knicks team, but a lot of role players had great seasons to propel them to second in the conference. 

J.R. Smith had his best year of his career scoring 18.1 points per game and winning the Sixth Man of the Year award. Raymond Felton, who they acquired in a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers, averaged a very solid 13.9 points per game and 5.5 assists per game.

Tyson Chandler made his first All-Star appearance as a reserve as well as being on the NBA All-Defensive First Team as well. Even with the primary scoring from Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks had plenty of supporting talent that made them dangerous going into the playoffs.

In the first round of the playoffs, the Knicks had to face the 7th seeded Boston Celtics. The Celtics were coming to the end of the prime with their core of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnettt, as Ray Allen had already left after the previous season.

They still had a solid roster with Rajon Rondo, Jason Terry, and Jeff Green, but the Knicks had a great opportunity to advance to the second round. Amar’e Stoudemire was going to miss the entire series, but it looked like the Knicks would still have enough to get past Boston.

The Knicks hosted the first two games at Madison Square Garden, and Carmelo put on a show for the city. Anthony scored 36 and 34 in games 1 and 2 to propel the Knicks to a 2-0 lead in the series. In game 3, the Knicks had to prepare for a different environment with the people of Boston still mourning the Boston Marathon bombings earlier that month.

Anthony and the Knicks were able to put in another good performance winning 90-76 to a 3-0 lead over the Celtics. The Knicks would just need one more victory to win their first playoff series since the 1999-2000 season.

In games 4 and 5, the Knicks had chances to close the series, but the Celtics prevailed in both games to keep their season alive. Game 6 was in Boston, and the Knicks needed to have a good performance if they wanted to put Boston away. With a little less than 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, it looked like the Knicks were going to blow out the Celtics to win the series.

The Knicks were up 75-49, and then the Celtics went on a ridiculous run to make things very interesting. The Boston Celtics went on an incredible 20-0 run and had the lead down to as low as 4, but the Knicks held on to win the series.

In the second round, the Knicks were going to face the 3rd seeded Indiana Pacers, who defeated the Atlanta Hawks in 6 games in their first round matchup. The Pacers were going to be a much tougher matchup for the Knicks, as Indiana was led by 22 year-old Paul George one of the best young wingers in the league.

George had plenty of support as well with George Hill, David West, Lance Stephenson, and Roy Hibbert being a really solid group of players for Head Coach Frank Vogel. It was certainly going to be a tall task for the Knicks to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. 

The Knicks dropped game 1 at home and needed to take game 2 if they wanted any chance to win the series. In game 2, the Knicks dominated the Pacers winning 105-79 to even the series going back to Indiana. In games 3 and 4, the Knicks struggled to score putting up 71 and 82 points in two losses to put them on the brink of elimination.

Amar’e Stoudemire returned in game 3, but his impact was limited with his injuries keeping him out for most of the season. In a potential closeout game for the Pacers, the Knicks were able to take game 5 at home and send the series back to Indiana. In game 6, the Knicks lost 106-99 which eliminated them from the playoffs. 

For me, it is an interesting discussion to think about where the Knicks could have gone that season if Amar’e Stoudemire was healthy. Obviously this is a hypothetical situation, but it is fun to think about how good that Knicks team could have been. I also believe the Knicks could have advanced past Indiana without him if a few things had gone their way in their second round series.

That season, J.R. Smith was the clear second option on the offensive end behind Carmelo Anthony. During the regular season, Smith shot better than 42% from the field and better than 35% from three. In the Pacers series, J.R. was 26/90 or less than 29% from the field and 9/39 or a little more than 23% from three.

Those are significantly worse numbers for J.R. Smith, who arguably had his best season of his career that year. Yes, the playoffs come with pressure and typically a lower shooting percentage, but those numbers were drastic for J.R. in that specific series. If Smith had shot the ball more efficiently throughout that series, I believe the Knicks would have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Another point of argument that could have swayed the series in favor of the Knicks was the matchup between Roy Hibbert and Tyson Chandler. Over the course of the entire series, Hibbert dominated Chandler on the boards. In the six game series, Hibbert had 62 total rebounds with 34 of them being offensive rebounds. On the other hand, Chandler only had 36 total rebounds, with 19 of them being offensive.

That season, Tyson Chandler was on the NBA All-Defensive First Team, yet he struggled to contain Roy Hibbet in that series. Hibbert was a very physical center in his days with the Pacers, but had the rebounding numbers been more even, the Knicks could have taken an extra game or two. 

Nothing in the history of the NBA can change, but it is certainly an interesting thing to look back at certain teams and what they could have been. Amar’e Stoudemrire was one of the best big men in the league when healthy, but unfortunately, the 2012-2013 was a rough year for him.

The New York Knicks have been a very disappointing organization in recent years, as that year was their last playoff appearance. 

Everything is hypothetical but if the Knicks had J.R. Smith or Tyson Chandler playing at a higher level, maybe they could have pushed the Miami Heat and made an appearance in the NBA Finals that season.

No matter what way you feel about the 2012-2013 Knicks team, millions of fans around the world are waiting to see a Knicks team back in the playoffs once again.

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