By BRIAN MAHONEY, Associated Press
GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — Amare Stoudemire had a message for his teammates after watching the New York Knicks' latest postseason failure.
"I was like, 'Don't hit nothing,'" Stoudemire said.
A 3-0 deficit against the Miami Heat and an NBA-record, 13-game postseason losing streak may be a strange time for humor, but there was something else to brighten the Knicks' mood Friday.
Stoudemire worked out with his lacerated left hand wrapped and could be in uniform Sunday when the Knicks try to avoid the sweep.
"I think he's going to play," interim coach Mike Woodson said. "I think he wants to play and again, if doctors say he's ready to play and they release him, then I'm going to play him."
Stoudemire was more cautious, sticking with the Knicks' original update that he was doubtful. He said Wednesday there was a "great chance" he could play, but said the hand was sore and definitely not 100 percent.
After watching the Knicks' offense stifled again in an 87-70 loss Thursday, he is making the effort to ditch the suit and sling for his Knicks uniform.
"I'm a team player man, and I feel like right now we've got an opportunity to where we've got to try to get a win," Stoudemire said. "Sunday we have to play as hard as we can to get one, so I want to be there for my teammates and also for the fans who stuck with me through this process."
Stoudemire was injured when he punched a fire extinguisher case after Game 2, hitting some glass and needing surgery to repair a muscle. He said the injury could have been much worse, with the cut only a millimeter away from a nerve. He later posted a picture of the wound on his Twitter page.
Stoudemire was able to catch and palm the ball with his left hand. But he wants to see how his recovery goes Saturday and again Sunday morning before deciding if he can play.
"With this type of injury, playing Sunday would be out of the question for most people, but for some reason I feel like I'm blessed," Stoudemire said. "I heal fast, I persevere through a lot of injuries. Obviously, the injury to my hand wasn't on purpose, it was accidental. So I feel like the work I put in today and the work I would put in tomorrow, hopefully I would feel better and be ready for Sunday."
Miami is preparing for both options, whether Stoudemire is in the lineup or not.
"We'll all have to see," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "Obviously, if he plays, it'd show a lot to his teammates that he wants to get back out there with them. So that'll bring something to their confidence level. But as a team, we'll prepare if he plays like we did in the first two games."
The Heat practiced briefly Friday at Madison Square Garden without Chris Bosh, who returned to Miami Thursday night to spend more time with his wife and new son born 16 hours before the start of Game 3. The team hasn't determined when Bosh will come back to New York, other than saying it will be in time for him to play in Game 4.
It was such a light workout that Heat forward LeBron James — who outscored the Knicks by himself in the fourth quarter of Game 3 and finished with 32 points — declined when asked if he needed icepacks strapped to his knees or anywhere else afterward.
James dealt with sharp criticism from the Garden crowd Thursday night, shaking off a slow start for a big finish that put Miami on the cusp of the second round.
His 17 points in the fourth quarter were the most by anyone in a playoff game this season entering Friday, and matched the biggest final-quarter output of his postseason career. He also scored 17 against Orlando when playing for Cleveland on May 28, 2009.
"I played well enough to help our team win and that's what it's about," James said. "I had some unforced turnovers that were careless on my part last night, but I stayed in tune with the game."
The Knicks surpassed the 12 straight postseason losses by Memphis from 2004-06 and haven't won in the playoffs since April 29, 2001, when they beat Toronto in Game 3 of a best-of-five series.
New York lost the next two games in the 2001 playoffs, then four more in 2004 and 2011.
Miami has won all three games by double figures and is 6-0 against New York counting the regular season. With Jeremy Lin and Iman Shumpert also out, the Heat can focus more attention on Carmelo Anthony, who is shooting just 34 percent from the field.
Having Stoudemire might help, though Woodson left open the possibility that Stoudemire would play but not start after throwing him right back into the starting lineup when he returned from a 13-game absence with a bulging disk in his back.
All the injuries, plus the death in February of his older brother and the ridicule he's received since his injury, have made this a difficult season for Stoudemire. It's likely to be over soon — no NBA team has overcome a 3-0 deficit — so he wants to be out there just in case.
"All the fans that stuck with me deserve to see me back on the court, but it's mainly for my teammates because they're working their butts off all season to be in this position to try to go to the next round," Stoudemire said. "And for the guys that may not be back next year, I want to make sure I still leave a great memory on the court with them before it's all said and done. Hopefully, we can get a win Sunday and take it to Miami for Wednesday."
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