There may be nothing so frustrating in sports as a missed opportunity for a championship, and longtime NBA center Tyson Chandler is still lamenting one that got away and went to the Miami Heat a decade ago.
Chandler’s New York Knicks lost a difficult series to the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the 2013 playoffs but said if they had been able to win it, they were good enough to defeat the Heat and eventually earn the NBA title.
“I really honestly feel like had we got past that, I feel like we probably, we have a legitimate shot to win the chip that year,” Chandler said.
According to the big man, the Knicks created their own difficulty by failing to close out the Boston Celtics in the first round quickly. After taking a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, New York failed to sweep in Game 4 and then lost Game 5 at home to extend the series to six games. That left it with less time to prepare to face the Pacers, who then won Game 1 of the second round at Madison Square Garden just two days later.
The Knicks fell behind in that series 3-1 before losing in six games. The Pacers went on to lose to the Heat in seven games in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, and Miami won its second straight championship with a seven-game victory against the San Antonio Spurs.
“Miami was trying to go for the back to back,” Chandler said. “And I really feel like we would have beat them that year with that Knicks team. No offense to them, but I feel like we had the unit for it.”
Chandler, who was already an NBA champion with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, earned the only All-Star Game appearance of his 19-season NBA career in that 2012-13 campaign with the Knicks, a team that was led by Carmelo Anthony and included J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Kenyon Martin and Jason Kidd.
The center also was coming off an Olympic gold medal won for Team USA at the 2012 London Olympics.
In the 2012-13 playoffs, the Heat of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh lost just one game in the first two rounds while eliminating the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls. After the grueling series against the Pacers, Miami won the final two games of the 2013 NBA Finals at home to secure its second straight championship and third in its history.
The Knicks won three of four games against the Heat during that regular season, so maybe Chandler has a point about how a playoff series might have gone. But thanks to the Pacers, fans will never know how it would have turned out.