Sunday night at the Garden was unlike just about any other game this season, and quite possibly in some time.
There were, by the sound of it early on, more fans of the opposing team than the home team. The three most notable people in the building were, in no particular order, a dude playing his last game for a team Knicks fans used to loath, a former Knick who no team wants, and a soon to be former Knicks that can’t understand why he’s not playing. A damned wave broke out in the second quarter.
Crazy town, we’ve arrived.
All in all, it wasn’t a banner day for the franchise, but as has been happening of late – if you care to chop through the media narratives growing like weeds recently – the Knicks actually showed some progress on the court. They once again played a spirited brand of defense, employing an aggressive, trapping scheme that sprung more than a few leaks but was also responsible for forcing 15 turnovers and holding the Heat below 30 points every quarter.
Yes, the bigger stories were Wade and Melo, who was in the building while on leave from the Bulls and received a nice ovation from the fans. Late in the game though, MSG came alive as Fizdale’s kids once again took a game against a better opponent down to the final two minutes. As is usually the case, their inexperience foiled the comeback, but the desire continues to be there. It is a small silver lining, but it is real.
Several Knicks had nice efforts, but none stood out more than the man ostensibly replacing Enes Kanter, whose absence is somehow being made out to be a pro-tanking move by some.
Mitchell Robinson was a presence on both ends, and despite the fact that he finished with only 4 points, the Heat were cognizant of his presence on both ends for every possession he was in the game. Their perimeter players simply did not challenge him at the rim, while on offense, he commanded attention without monopolizing post touches that so often drag down the offense. Finding him for those lobs is still a work in progress, but as Fizdale noted after the Nets game, the rest of this season is about getting things in place for when the games once again start to matter.
Also, there was Frank. He was in a nice groove throughout the first half, playing the entire first quarter and a few minutes in the second before checking out with a hurt groin. His absence was felt most in the third quarter, when the Knicks couldn’t get into any flow on offense and watched the Heat get whatever they wanted on the other end. Trey Burke once again had a nice game statistically, but the team just isn’t the same on either end when he’s out there. Fizdale noted postgame how the ball stopped moving in the third quarter. He wasn’t wrong.
The rest of the Knicks had somewhere between “meh” and “ehh” games. No one was bad; no one was great. No, wins are not a priority, but at some point, they need to start pulling some of these games out, ping pong balls be damned.
Knicks are back at it Monday in Charlotte. Giddy up.