Iman Shumpert’s buckling knee.
Tyson Chandler’s woozy gait.
Amar’e Stoudemire’s bloodied hand.
“I just don’t want to look at that fire extinguisher at all,” Stoudemire said with a chuckle Tuesday afternoon, his pain momentarily offset by his own revival.
The Knicks’ last trip to Miami ended with two lopsided defeats — three, if you count Stoudemire’s fight with a fire-extinguisher case, which left him with a shredded left hand — and little hope in this first-round series against the Heat.
The Knicks return to Miami, improbably, with their playoff hopes narrowly alive and Stoudemire thriving again, after a 20-point, 10-rebound performance that helped them stave off elimination in Game 4. The Heat lead the series, 3-1, and have another chance to close it out Wednesday night.
It is fair to wonder how different the ledger might look if not for the Knicks’ freakish string of misfortune over the last two weeks.
Chandler was struck with flu symptoms just before the playoffs began and played, in his words, like a “zombie” in the series opener. Shumpert, the prized rookie, blew out his knee in the third quarter of Game 1 (a 100-67 loss). Then came Stoudemire’s moment of madness after Game 2 (a 104-94 loss), which caused him to miss Game 3 (an 87-70 loss).
When the Knicks finally celebrated a victory at Madison Square Garden on Sunday (89-87), even that moment of joy was tempered — by Baron Davis’s career-threatening knee injury. They will open Game 5 with Mike Bibby, formerly their third-string point guard, and with pestering thoughts of what might have been.
“I try not to think like that,” said , who saved the series with 41 points in Game 4. “Maybe after everything is over, said and done, I’ll reflect back on it. But right now, I can’t think about it like that.”
This much the Knicks believe: the gap between the teams is not nearly as great as the Heat’s 3-0 lead suggested. After winning on Sunday, and playing a very tight three quarters in Game 3, the Knicks are certain that — with a healthy roster — they can compete with the Heat, the defending Eastern Conference champions.
“It’s not a big difference,” Anthony said. “It’s not a huge margin between teams. It’s just some little things here and there.”
What the Knicks have needed most — other than a karmic cleansing — is a point guard to straighten out the offense and create easier scoring chances. Davis and Bibby, for all of their experience, are well past their prime.
, the 23-year-old point-guard sensation, has not played since having knee surgery five weeks ago. He had held out some hope of returning in the first round, but Coach Mike Woodson ruled it out Tuesday.
“He’s out,” Woodson said. “Speaking with medical and Jeremy, he will not play in this series.”
Asked if that might change if the Knicks forced a Game 7, Woodson said, “I don’t think so.”
“He’s not ready,” Woodson said, a refrain he repeated several times.
The original prognosis called for Lin to miss the first round. Team officials thought he might beat that projection after he played one-on-one just before Game 1. He has since played three-on-three, but the knee remains sore and Lin has yet to be cleared for full-contact activity.
As badly as the Knicks need reinforcements after losing their starting backcourt, they do not want Lin to rush back and risk further damage. Anthony said he spoke privately with Lin last week.
“I just want him to take care of himself right now,” he said.
If the series ends on Wednesday, the Knicks will have at least broken an 11-year playoff victory drought, taking their first small step forward in the Anthony-Stoudemire era. That, combined with a strong finish to the regular season, appears to have secured Woodson’s future, too.
A person with connections to Woodson confirmed that the team recently initiated discussions about a contract extension. Although the talks are only preliminary, the person expressed confidence that a deal would be done.
Woodson, however, denied that any talks had taken place and disputed the original report by The Daily News.
“That’s not true, not at all,” Woodson said.
Woodson guided the Knicks to an 18-6 record after replacing Mike D’Antoni, who had clashed with Anthony. Both Anthony and Stoudemire strongly endorsed Woodson’s returning next season.
“I know as players, we all love his philosophy on both ends of the court,” Stoudemire said. “He has a good understanding, and we all get along very well. It’ll be great to build something solid, sooner than later.”
Woodson deflected the praise.
“That’s nice of them to say,” he said. “But again, it’s not about me right now. It really isn’t, guys. I was given an opportunity to take a team over and I got to finish it. This is not finished. When it’s done, then I’m sure we’ll sit down and talk.”