Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Falling Action

Knicks Fail Down Stretch, Lose to Celtics

It was the unstanched stream of blood Knicks' turnovers in the final three minutes that sealed the come-from-ahead loss to the Boston Celtics at the Garden last night. After out-hustling, out-executing, out-witting and, most importantly, out-wanting the defending Eastern Conference champs through three quarters, the Knicks suffered a bewildering bout of stage fright in the waning moments and squandered a double-digit lead.

"We just got to a point there, I thought we just panicked," increasingly under fire 'bockers coach Mike D'Antoni Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters after the game.

Panic or not, in the grand scheme of an NBA season, there is relatively little shame in losing a close game to a title-contending team like the Boston Celtics. It's certainly not as hard to explain come Selection Sunday as losing to lottery-bound dregs like Detroit and Milwaukee, who toppled the Knicks while we were watching college basketball over the weekend. Yet this most recent loss hurt (me) so much more because my hopes were raised and then dashed. Defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory.

In a well-plotted narrative - which this hard-fought, bloody game surely was - there is a segment of the plot cycle called the "falling action." It comes between the climax and the conclusion. And unlike in the bedroom, the climax is not the conclusion when plotting a story.

This "falling action" is the moment of reversal after the climax. In a comedy, or any story with a happy ending, that falling action is when things finally turn around for the previously embattled protagonist. In a tragedy, it's when things start to unravel for the protagonist as the antagonist gains the upper hand. In last night's tragic (in the narrative sense, not in the Japan sense) loss, I identified the falling action as this failed play coming out a timeout with the Knicks still leading, 82-78, with 6:45 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Was this isolation play drawn up in the huddle? Was Anthony supposed to use that pick that Ronny Turiaf tried to set? Or to feed the ball to Amar'e at the high post or the top of the key when he flashed up? Did anyone look toward the bench when the first iso attempt sputtered, resulting in another out-of-bounds play for the Knicks?