By SUZANNE MOORE News Editor and KAITLYN AFFUSO, Press-Republican
---- — PLATTSBURGH — New York Knicks fans have high hopes that their team will clinch their first playoff series in 13 years tonight.
“We’re on fire,” Heather Van Arsdel said. “It’s our time.”
The team narrowly missed sweeping Boston in game four of seven on Sunday, coming back from a 20-point deficit to snatch the lead in the fourth quarter but ending in a tie at the buzzer.
In overtime, the Celtics rallied to win 97-90, thrilling some fans at Plattsburgh sports bars, among them was Todd Fortin of Peru.
Cheering his team from Mickey’s Restaurant and Lounge, he said wasn’t surprised by the Celtics’ comeback. He expects Boston will defeat the Knicks in tonight’s game, too, at Madison Square Garden.
’NOT WITHOUT RONDO’
Tom Martisus, a lifelong Celtics fan, wasn’t feeling as hopeful as he watched Sunday’s game at Geoffrey’s Pub.
“I know the season’s going to end today or the next game,” the Peru man said.
Martisus said he’d had some enthusiasm at the season’s start, but then, he felt, the players’ age started to show.
He said a significant factor, too, has been All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo’s season-ending knee injury in January.
The team finished the season with a record just slightly over .500; the Knicks wrapped it up at .659 with a 54-28 record and their first division title since 1994.
Chris Phillips had his eyes on the flat-screen at Geoffrey’s; he had hoped the Knicks would sweep on Sunday.
They’d been sloppy, he said, but their defense was keeping them together.
“They’re always playing good defense. The team is doing a good job, but they’re lacking scoring.”
It didn’t help that the Knicks lineup didn’t include J.R. Smith, he said, who earned a one-game suspension following a flagrant foul during game 3.
Just a few days earlier, he’d been named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.
’WE CAN TAKE IT’
Van Arsdel, who owns Center Stage Dance Studio in Plattsburgh, was a Knicks Dancer from 1998 until last August.
She’s “mildly annoyed,” she said, that the team really started clicking the season after her departure.
But she was there the last time the team won a playoff series — in 1999 over the Miami Heat.
And from courtside, she watched Larry Johnson make the famous 4-point play with 11.9 seconds left to beat the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals that year.
The Knicks fell to the San Antonio Spurs in the finals, but those amazing triumphs live larger in Van Arsdel’s memory.
“That season was crazy,” she said, “miracle after miracle, we kept winning.”
Taking the first round this year is just the beginning, she figures.
So many years, the Knicks kind of stumbled into the playoffs, where they floundered and died, she said.
But not this time.
“I think the consensus is we can take it,” she said of the championship. “This might be our year.”