45-- it's more than just the atomic number for rhodium on the periodic table of elements. It's the weekend beer count for today's average college kid and the complete life expectancy for yesterday's indulgers. Walk through China Town with $45 and you'll leave a happy man.
More importantly to Knick fans, however, 45 is the number of points that the Orange and Blue were short of when they got blown out by the Boston Celtics in their first meeting of the Kevin Garnett era on November 29 of last year.
With Garnett suspended for tonight's contest-- the 11 time NBA All-Star planted a Buck shot in the face of Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut during last Saturday's contest-- the Knicks were primed to avenge last year's humiliating loss (the only thing more embarrassing than being a Knick fan on November 29, 2007, was being a Celtics fan for the entire 2006-07 season. Or being Isiah Thomas' beloved daughter).
Tonight, however, it was clear that the only thing shorter than last year's 59-point performance was this year's starting lineup. With Garnett relegated to David Stern's doghouse -- still dressed to impress, of course-- the Knicks, led down low by Zach Randolph, figured to have their way in the paint.
Instead, despite capturing an early first-quarter lead that was sparked by Quentin Richardson's marksmanship from beyond the arc, New York got handled on the block. The Knicks, inexplicably, made reserve red-head Brian Scalabrine look like Bill Walton on the boards and Kendrick Perkins, Moses Malone (how you allow a 5.5 point per game, 50 percent free throw shooter to develop a fourth-quarter swagger bigger than T.I.'s is beyond me).
Over the course of the game, the Knicks were outscored by a total of 32-12 in the paint. For a team that thrives within the running game and moves the ball in the open court like the Knicks do, the 20-point deficit in that department is not a positive omen.
Of course, this is not to say that watching the Knicks compete tonight was anything shy of impressive.
Before complaining about the now 6-5 Knicks' most recent loss, divide 45 by 5. For those of you who haven't figured out how to use your Blackberry calculator, the answer is 9. And that is precisely how much the Knicks lost by tonight-- by one-fifth of last year's humiliating debacle. If the Knicks can somehow manage to avenge four-fifths of last year's defeats, Big Apple fans are looking at more than a playoff contender.
In order to do so, however, the Knicks will need to find someone willing, or simply capable of filling the gaping hole that exists in the now Eddy Curry-less New York front court.
Yes, it did take 11 games for Curry's mere presence in the paint, if nothing else, to be missed. At 6-5, it is hardly justifiable for a Knick fan to question Head Coach Mike D'antoni's methodology, but after games like tonight, it leaves us wondering what will be done to fill the void.
D'antoni reminds the media after every game that, "we are not going to win an NBA Championship," and "this is a re-building process," but with a winning record, sitting amidst an Eastern Conference race that was about as competitive as a Hillary Clinton election last year, D'antoni has to start believing that he can at least make a playoff push. Weather that means re-instating Curry into the rotation upon the recuperation of his bruised right knee or simply finding a big man capable of defending in the paint remains to be seen, but if making the playoffs means anything to the Knicks (doesn't it always in New York), tonight was solid evidence that an upgrade at center needs to be made.