If only they could recapture the feeling, perhaps the Knicks could summon a playoff miracle, beat the Miami Heat three more times and became the first N.B.A. team to come back from a 3-0 deficit.
If only they could unleash another dose of Linsanity when the series resumes Wednesday in Miami.
“I’m not counting on to play,” Coach Mike Woodson said Monday.
So there goes that premise.
Fantasies of Lin’s returning were stoked Sunday afternoon, when the Knicks avoided a sweep with over the Heat. Lin, who is recovering from knee surgery, had hinted he would play in the series if the Knicks survived long enough.
Having lost two guards to knee injuries — and — the Knicks have never been more desperate for Lin’s return and his talent for mystical moments.
But Lin has not received medical clearance from team doctors. He has yet to scrimmage five on five. He has played three on three a few times, but he has yet to take contact on consecutive days.
Most significant, Lin has not played since March 24 , a stretch of 44 days, which makes the casting of him as a savior seem slightly ludicrous.
“He’s not in great shape,” Woodson said during a conference call with reporters. “You know as well as I know that playoff basketball, you’ve got to be at an all-time high, and he hasn’t played in a while.”
The comeback would be that much tougher against the Heat, perhaps the N.B.A.’s fiercest defensive team. Miami held Lin to 1-for-11 shooting, with eight turnovers, on Feb. 23, his worst game as a starter.
“Jeremy’s a big piece of our team,” Woodson said. “But if the docs say, ‘Mike, we’re taking a chance, he shouldn’t be out there playing,’ I can’t be that selfish and say, ‘Son, put a uniform on and play.’ ”
So the Knicks will open Game 5 with Mike Bibby — who has never inspired clever puns or sparked a global frenzy and who turns 34 on Sunday — as their point guard. J. R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony will take on increased ball-handling duties whenever Bibby rests.
The injury to Davis’s right knee was worse than originally thought. Tests taken Monday revealed complete tears in the medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments, as well as a partial tear of the patella tendon. He will have surgery this week. He is expected to be out for 12 months.
Davis, a 13-year veteran, will be a free agent this summer. If he decides to resume his career next year, when he will be 34, he will probably do it elsewhere.
Woodson said he spoke briefly with Davis after Sunday’s game, when the Knicks hoped he had only a dislocated kneecap.
“He was in great spirits,” Woodson said. “Baron’s a trouper, man. The one thing he did say: ‘Man, hey, I tried to give you all I could.’ And I have a great deal of respect for players that work for me and work for the organization and try to do the best they can to help us win ballgames.”
Before Lin emerged in February, the Knicks had viewed Davis as their best option at point guard. But he played only 29 games after a long recovery from a herniated disk and never came close to his former All-Star form.
The Knicks are down to four healthy guards, two of whom — Bibby and Toney Douglas — were out of the rotation for much of the season. Woodson will probably play Anthony, Smith and Landry Fields for longer stretches to compensate for the lack of depth. He sounded reluctant to use Douglas.
There was no such hesitation about Bibby, who has played in 104 postseason games, including 33 for Woodson, mostly in Atlanta. Bibby once guided the Sacramento Kings to the Western Conference finals, .
“He’s not as fast and crafty as he used to be, but he’s still capable in short minutes of running a basketball team,” Woodson said, adding, “He’s still capable of hitting the big shots.”
Bibby showed that knack again Sunday, making a 3-pointer with 1 minute 23 seconds left that gave the Knicks an 84-81 lead.
The Knicks were emboldened by Sunday’s victory, but their task remains daunting. Of the previous 101 teams to fall behind, 3-0, 91 lost in the fourth or fifth game. Only three forced a Game 7. The Knicks are 0-4 in Miami this season and lost the first two games there by a combined 43 points.
Even Lin, who came out of nowhere and captivated the world in February, might not have enough magic to defy those odds.