Dolan Breaks Faith With Knicks Fans Again

Remember when Dolan, the Madison Square Garden chairman, socked season-ticket holders with a price increase that ? When he nearly tripled the already hair-raising cost of a seat for some in the lower bowl, loyalists who had stayed with the team through a decade of misery?

News of the mass gouging circulated in April 2011, weeks after the none-too-coincidental acquisition of Carmelo Anthony but before the Knicks would be swept in the playoffs by the Boston Celtics, extending their streak of failing to win a postseason game to a full decade.

Count on us, Dolan in effect told the stressed folks he had disappointed or infuriated for so long. Believe in our potential by investing heavily in our reconstructed product (and refurbished arena). For the many who did, the reward was not a divisional unseating of the Celtics, not a deep run in the playoffs, nothing remotely close to championship contention.

Superficially, it was one playoff victory over LeBron James and the Miami Heat this spring on the way to another first-round exit. Spiritually, it was the brief but remarkable emergence of Lin during a galvanizing month that saved the season and made Dolan’s arena feel like the world’s most famous in more than its customary, self-aggrandizing way.

Then the Houston Rockets adopted the very strategy in their restricted free-agency pursuit of Lin that the Garden had forever used to crowbar talent from less-endowed competitors. All of a sudden the normally free-spending Dolan decided it was time to stop the Linsanity. With a gun to his head that was loaded with a potential $35 million luxury-tax penalty on top of a $14.9 million balloon payment in the third year of Lin’s contract, he hid behind the reasonable-sounding excuse of a long-elusive fiscal prudence.

Many have agreed with the rationale that Lin, based on the sampling of his work, just was not worth it. Then again, did Dolan banish Lin — who was about 20 minutes from being a former player while vegetating on the end of the Knicks’ bench early last season — from New York on the grounds of his being an ingrate and daring to exploit his leverage for what could be the one time in his basketball career?

In contrast to Lin’s work, there is more than a sampling of Dolan’s, enabling us to make an educated guess as to how cool and calculated he was upon learning that Lin and the Rockets had conspired to make their deal even more tax punitive for him to match. Anthony, inhabiting the place in Dolan’s heart once reserved for Isiah Thomas, chimed in by calling the Lin deal “ridiculous,” as if his time in New York had produced anything close to the surge in interest and profit resulting from Lin’s achievements, however limited, last season.

The argument has been made that the financial risks of matching the offer were not necessarily that daunting, given the possibility that Lin could become the player he was for most of February (if Anthony allowed it) and continue being a marketing gold mine. If he did not, there would have been several avenues for salary cap and tax relief — using Amar’e Stoudemire’s expiring contract as a trade chip, for one — going into the third year of Lin’s deal.

We can also debate until opening night the basketball merits of retaining Lin versus letting him go, without reaching a satisfying conclusion. But that is exactly the point for long-suffering Knicks fans. A majority, I am betting, wanted Lin on their team next season, if only because they wished this compelling saga would continue in the Garden, where it started and where they have been extraordinarily loyal to a franchise that has not really deserved it.

To that end, one season-ticket holder for decades whom I have known for many years expressed exasperation over Dolan’s unwillingness to do what he has asked of his fans over and over: keep the faith and invest in the potential for success, in this case that of the 23-year-old Lin.

“After sitting there all those years and watching all that horrible basketball, we finally had such a feel-good story that felt like our own,” said the ticket-holder, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from a management that has been notoriously contentious. “How many times can they hurt me?”

Her ticket renewals for next season have long been mailed in (with yet another incremental increase of $30 per game ticket). Even with the materialization of the Nets in Brooklyn and the alienation of the large outer-borough Asian-American population, she knows the Garden will be packed come opening night. Lin’s replacement, Raymond Felton, will probably be welcomed back with a hopeful roar.

But on some level the fans will also know that what Dolan asks of his patrons is not necessarily what he demands of himself. He lets Lin walk and tells them to keep writing those painful checks and keep believing in a franchise that within a handful of months has managed to turn its most alluring episode in more than a decade into a requiem for a point guard.

Dwyane Wade’s Miss Ends Game’s Suspense With a Clang

Wade lost the ball momentarily but regained control and dribbled into the corner. He faded away. He fired away. He said he thought the shot was good. It was not.

The shot clanged off the rim, and the Knicks won, , at Madison Square Garden and lived to see another day. The longest postseason losing streak in N.B.A. history, 13 games, is now in their rearview mirror.

Wade’s miss was the final play in a string of seven possessions of drama in a game that had been lacking it.

“We got a switch on Amar’e,” Wade said of Amar’e Stoudemire, describing the final play. “I was attacking the rim, kind of lost it. When I lost it, it kind of forced me out a way.”

He added: “I think there was a little confusion at that time. There was other options. They just switched everything. So it was no triggers pulled from that standpoint.”

LeBron James said he “would love to have the ball” on the final possession, “but as a team we all win games together, we lose games together.”

“That’s all that matters,” he said.

Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said James was the second option on the play, an option lost when Wade fumbled the ball.

“I had the shot I wanted before I fumbled the ball,” Wade said. “I had him on my hip. I had the runner that I wanted.”

A 3-pointer by Mike Bibby staked the Knicks to an 84-81 lead with 1 minute 23 seconds remaining. The shot kicked off a late-game sequence that was little like the preceding 46-plus minutes, which included the teams’ extended drought from beyond the 3-point arc: they combined to miss 22 in a row.

But those misses were an afterthought when James responded to Bibby’s 3-pointer with one of his own out of a timeout to tie the score. James credited Chris Bosh with setting the screen that freed him for the shot.

Carmelo Anthony, who scored 41 points, responded to James’s basket with a 3-pointer. Anthony hit the shot with Shane Battier all over him, and the Knicks led, 87-84.

“Law of averages usually plays out,” Battier said of the contrast between the late-game flourish from behind the arc and the rest of the game.

The Heat then committed a backcourt turnover after some confusion. Wade and Anthony ended up tangled, and Bosh, expecting Wade to be elsewhere, threw the ball away. On the ensuing possession, Battier, who has guarded Anthony much of the series, was whistled for fouling Anthony as he fired up a 3-pointer. The call may have been suspect.

“Out of respect for my paycheck, I’m going to abstain from any comments that may lessen that paycheck,” Battier said.

Anthony hit one of three free throws, and it was 88-84.

“It’s the matchups that we had at the time, matchups that have worked for us,” James said when asked why he was not guarding Anthony. “It doesn’t matter who’s on who. When a great player has it going offensively, you can put anybody on him. I felt like Shane has done a great job in this series. We all had done a great job in this series of containing Melo.”

James also said he guarded center Tyson Chandler to help prevent him from corralling an offensive rebound if Anthony missed.

James gave the Heat a chance by countering Anthony’s free throw with a 3-point play. He jackknifed between Anthony and Chandler and absorbed contact from Chandler, converting the layup with his left hand while falling out of bounds, then sank the free throw.

The Knicks were down to a 1-point lead, and the Heat fouled Stoudemire, who made one of two foul shots. Anthony could not score off an offensive rebound, setting up Miami’s final play.

The Heat spoke more about being undone because Anthony, who made 15 of 29 shots from the field, made difficult plays than a final play that went awry.

“He was going to go out gunning,” Wade said of Anthony, adding, “We live with contested jump shots.”

Shane Battier Is Still Chasing a Title With the Heat

Battier is not about to let this opportunity go to waste, which is why he was diving all over the floor on Wednesday night, sacrificing his body to help close out the in their first-round playoff series. Miami scored a in Game 5 at AmericanAirlines Arena, and Battier reached the second round of the playoffs for just the third time in his 11-year career. He knows time is running out.

“That’s why I’m here; that’s why I signed with the Heat,” Battier said before the game. “I could have gone elsewhere and maybe played more or got paid more money, but I came here to compete for a championship.”

Joining forces with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is not a bad tactic to choose when winning it all is the goal.

Even with Wade going scoreless in the first quarter and James not hitting his first field goal until midway through the second, it was clear the Heat wanted to end the series at home. Wade exploded for 12 points in the second quarter, hitting back-to-back fadeaways late to help create an 11-point halftime cushion, and Miami expanded that lead to 18 in the third.

“Watching those games yesterday, where three teams had the opportunity to close it out and not being able to close it out, Coach wanted us to prove tonight that we were ready to close it out here at home,” Wade said. “I think the two major places we put emphasis on was turnovers and rebounding the ball, and we took care of that.”

James took on the task of defending the Knicks’ top scoring threat, Carmelo Anthony. While Anthony hit his share of shots, James matched him on the offensive end and did just enough defensively to frustrate Anthony. He finished with 29 points to Anthony’s 35.

James said the Heat were very conscious of expanding their lead after it reached 55-44 at halftime.

“It was good that we were able to do that,” he said. “We had an 11- or 12-point lead in Game 4, and we weren’t able to bump it up to 15 or 16 where Coach Woodson would have had to call a timeout. We allowed them to get back in the game.”

The last two times Battier reached the conference semifinals, his team was eliminated in seven games. Last year, his Memphis Grizzlies went the distance with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and in the 2008-9 season his Houston Rockets lost to the Los Angeles Lakers, who went on to win the N.B.A. title.

“Right now it’s about being instinctual,” said Battier, who said he still drew on his experiences at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski. “Obviously, you need to have good technique, but in the postseason you have to perform with your instincts. That was Coach K’s biggest mantra in the postseason, you can’t overthink it, you just have to go out there and make plays.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra said Battier embodied everything the Heat needs to be to advance.

“I think if you took his minutes during the course of the game, he probable spent half of his minutes on the floor,” Spoelstra said.