By Neil Best
---- — INDIANAPOLIS — The Knicks have played one game in six days, but who says basketball teams need basketball to generate drama and intrigue?
Not the Knicks, who in the absence of actual games should have thought to charge admission for the chat Carmelo Anthony planned to have with Tyson Chandler yesterday.
Chandler, you may recall, filled some of the many hours between games in the Eastern Conference semifinals by saying Saturday and again Sunday that certain unnamed Knicks were not sacrificing themselves for the greater good.
“I think we need to do a better job of allowing the game to dictate who takes the shots and not the individuals,” Chandler said, among a number of bluntly stated opinions.
Alas, the timing was less than ideal, given Chandler — named NBA All-Defensive first team yesterday — has enough to worry about solving his one-sided matchup against Pacers center Roy Hibbert.
When Anthony was asked about Chandler’s remarks yesterday, he said: “I really don’t want to go back and forth about that, because I really don’t know exactly what he was talking about.
“But if he feels that way, we’re about to get together right now. We’ll discuss that among ourselves and figure that out, just get his take, his perspective on that comment.”
As usual, Melo’s tone was mellow. But he had to be wondering where Chandler was coming from, since everyone else in New York seemed more concerned that Anthony’s 16 field-goal attempts in Game 3 were too few, given how limited offensively the rest of the roster is at this stage.
“It all falls on me, anyway,” he said. “I accept that. I expect that.”
Anthony does seem to be the default fall guy for many fans, media members and even teammates when things go awry. It also is true that with seemingly every other scoring option now sick, old or injured, he is their best hope in a Game 4 tonight that Anthony called “must win.”
He also called it a “gut- check” game. At least it’s a game. After playing nine since April 20, the Knicks are on the brink of a sprint that could involve four games and three plane rides in seven days that largely will define their season.
Give the Knicks their due for a 54-win regular season and a first-round elimination of the Celtics, but the reality is that anything short of a berth in the conference finals will be a disappointment.
And to avoid it, they must win three times between now and Monday, at least once here, against a flawed Pacers team that nevertheless presents significant matchup problems.
This is a crossroad moment for many important Knicks, including Anthony and coach Mike Woodson, a guy from Indy trying to get past a team whose owner, president and starting shooting guard are New Yorkers.
Woodson must avoid internal issues from tearing at his team. He did his best to downplay that possibility, saying Chandler’s remarks merely indicated “a good teammate” offering constructive criticism.
“Sometimes bickering amongst each other is pretty healthy,” Woodson said, then reconsidered the term. “Maybe that’s not the word to use.”
Maybe. It is difficult to say without knowing exactly what Anthony and Chandler discussed, and how they discussed it.
When asked whether everyone is “pulling in the same direction,” Melo said, “Oh, we’re good. As far as mentally and everybody being on the same page, everybody is staying confident. Everybody is where we should be now.”
Where they are is two losses from elimination. Talking time is over. To quote Mariano Rivera: “Shhhh!”