MIAMI (WFAN/AP) — Since acquiring Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets last February, the Knicks have both snapped their playoff appearance drought and earned their first postseason win in over 11 years.
But New York still hasn't won a playoff series since they went all the way to the Eastern Conference finals nearly twelve years ago. Anthony vowed after the team's latest first-round ouster, a 106-94 loss to Miami in Game 5, that things will change. And soon.
"Next year, we'll be better," Anthony vowed Wednesday night. "We'll be much better as a unit. Not just me and Amar'e, but as a team, as a group, we'll be much better. We'll learn from this. We'll come back next year and be ready."
For the Heat, it was only the first step. They have one goal — getting back to the finals and winning it all. After over a decade of postseason futility, Knicks fans could only hope to have such lofty expectations.
"I feel confident in my team and where we're headed," said Anthony. "In the future, I feel good about competing with the top teams in the Eastern Conference. ... We've just got to get better and go from there."
Anthony scored 35 points for the Knicks, including a spinning jumper over LeBron James at the end of the third quarter that pulled New York within 81-67. It was far from being enough to stave off an all-too-familiar playoff result for Anthony, part of that 2003 draft class that also yielded James, Bosh and Wade.
Anthony has played 54 postseason games, being part of wins only 17 times. A misleading stat for certain — it's hardly all on him — and no shortage of people in the Heat organization interrupted their celebrating of a series-clincher to tip their caps Anthony's way afterward.
"We fought, under the circumstances," Anthony said. "I'm not one to make any excuses for anything. ... But Miami, they're a tough defensive team. They stick to what their schemes are."
Head-to-head, Anthony and James both scored 139 points in the series. James shot 48 percent from the field, Anthony 42 percent. James averaged 6.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists, Anthony averaged 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
"It was fun, man," James said. "He's one of the most competitive players I've ever played against in a playoff series."
Amar'e Stoudemire scored 14 points, Landry Fields and J.R. Smith both added 12, Mike Bibby had 10 and Tyson Chandler grabbed 11 rebounds for New York, which is 1-8 in playoff games since Anthony and Stoudemire became teammates.
"Miami is a very good team," Stoudemire said. "You have to give credit to them."
New York's season started with great expectations. Not long after the lockout ended the Knicks acquired Chandler from Dallas, a move made possible by using the amnesty clause on Chauncey Billups.
Those moves were expected. Just about everything else that happened was not. From the firing of coach Mike D'Antoni to the emergence of Jeremy Lin before he was sidelined by a knee injury, the Knicks had a roller-coaster ride that continued with a debilitating series of injuries against Miami.
Rookie guard Iman Shumpert was lost in the third quarter of Game 1 to a torn knee ligament, Stoudemire sliced his left hand after taking out his frustrations on a metal-and-glass fire extinguisher case after a Game 2 loss, and Baron Davis shredded his knee so badly in Game 4 that he is expected to be out a year — at least.
"I thought we played well in spurts," Knicks interim coach Mike Woodson said. "Our guys got a short taste of what playoff basketball's about. It's something this summer we've got to sit and think about and hopefully get ready for next season."
He didn't put any extra emphasis on the word "hopefully," but he could have. One of New York's first orders of business this offseason will likely be deciding if Woodson will be back on the sideline, as many expect.
With the way the team finished off the regular season, Knicks fans have reason to believe next year might bring a different result.
"What an exciting Knick season," comedian Ben Stiller tweeted. "Looking forward to next year. Hope JR (Smith) and and (Steve) Novak and the team stay together. Bring Woodson back."
Do you think the Knicks will make the playoffs next year -- and finally get out of the first round? Sound off below...
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
for more features.