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Melo drama won't end well for Knicks

So you Sabres fans think you have it tough? Try rooting for the New York Knicks.

The Knicks, one of the NBA's elite franchises, haven't won a playoff series in 12 years. They haven't won a single postseason game since 2001. The last two times they got in ('11 and '04), they got swept.

That's one reason Jeremy Lin caused such an uproar when he burst on the scene in February. It explains why Knicks fans are giddy about the team's recent surge, which has them in eighth place in the East with six games left.

Yes, even in a major market sneaking into the playoffs can be seen as a triumph. You can't blame Knicks fans, who have waited since 2000, Patrick Ewing's final season in New York, for a return to relevance.

Like a certain hockey team, the Knicks were expected to contend, not simply make the postseason. They had Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, and a good supporting cast. But injuries and general dysfunction set them back.

The Knicks caught fire, though, after Mike Woodson replaced Mike D'Antoni as coach and Anthony decided to stop pouting and play with renewed energy and purpose. He even agreed to play a little defense.

They won 14 of 18 under Woodson, continuing to play well despite losing Lin to left knee surgery. And on Sunday, the Knicks put their nine-game home winning streak on the line against LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

It had a playoff feel. The Knicks and Heat used to be the NBA's best rivalry. From 1997-2000, they met four straight times in the playoffs, with all four series going the limit. Those games were closely contested cauldrons of ill will. You'll recall Jeff Van Gundy holding on to Alonzo Mourning's leg during one memorable dustup.

With Miami locked into second and the Knicks tied for seventh, it loomed as a preview of an opening-round playoff matchup. You could sense Knicks fans dreaming of a big upset, just like the good old days.

You know the NBA would love it. The league is better when the Knicks matter. A Knicks-Heat series would be good for business.

The Knicks would be a live underdog. They're tough at home. Their defense, led by Tyson Chandler, has been much better since Woodson took over. Anthony, content to again be the focus of the offense, has been on a terrific run.

Still, I wouldn't get too excited about an upset. This Knicks team is hot and fun to watch. But it doesn't have much chance of upsetting the Heat -- or the Bulls, the likely No. 1 seed and best team in the East.

The Knicks are too reliant on Anthony, who scored 42 points in Sunday's 93-85 loss to the Heat. That's half the team's scoring. You don't win that way in the playoffs.

It's fashionable to suggest the Knicks are better off without Lin. That's a joke. They're hurting at point guard. Baron Davis, who is 33 and nursing multiple injuries, had three points and five assists Sunday.

Miami isn't deep, but in James and Dwyane Wade it has two elite scoring options in the clutch. That was apparent in the fourth quarter Sunday, when the Heat took over the game while Anthony and the Knicks seemed physically spent.

Anthony will try to carry them in the playoffs. Good luck with that. In Carmelo's eight NBA seasons, his teams have lost in the first round seven times. Overall, his teams are 16-34.

You can blame his supporting cast. But we've seen this show before, and it usually has a very short run.

email: jsullivan@buffnews.com