The Knicks, for all intents and purposes, played one of their worst games in a fortnight last evening. Amar'e Stoudemire was off for three quarters, the supporting cast was quiet, Toronto's Andrea Bargnani — or "giant Italian Zach Braff," as Posting and Toasting's Seth calls him — lit up the defense for a career night, and some slap-happy refereeing led to a choppy, ugly game across the board. This is absolutely the type of game the Knicks have lost over the last decade. And then, in the fourth quarter, Stoudemire took over ... and Raymond Felton made a ridiculous, remote-controlled three-pointer with two seconds left. And suddenly: The Knicks had won their sixth in a row.
The Knicks haven't won a game like that yet this year, a last-second crazy-shot type of win. Most of their wins (and their losses) haven't even been all that close, at least not nail-bitingly, anus-tighteningly close: A quick glance through the memory brings up the tough loss to the Nuggets, that double overtime win over Detroit, and this one. But this one had that Felton shot, and Amar'e's fourth-quarter brilliance (eighteen points, and big baskets every time down the court; to be fair, he had to hit those big baskets because he couldn't stop Bargnani on the other end), and lest we forget, this:
So this one might have been more fun. It was the third straight home win for the Knicks, bringing them to .500 at the Garden for the season. They're also 14–9 now, the best record they've had after 23 games since 1999–2000. They're also sitting at 86 percent playoff odds, if you're watching such matters. This is as good as this has been in a decade.
But there's just one more game of this alley-ooping whooping fun, Friday at last-place Washington, and then it's time to get serious. If the Knicks can beat the Wizards — and if the last two weeks have taught us anything, it's that the Knicks can beat lousy teams — they will be 15–9 heading into a crazy weeklong home stand. How crazy? The games:
Sunday: vs. Denver
Wednesday: vs. Boston
Friday: vs. Miami
Now that's quite the stretch: Carmelo, then the Celts, then the circus shitshow that is LeBron and the Heat. If the Knicks come out with one win of those three, you have to feel that's sufficient. If they win two, they're better than we thought. And if they win three, look out. The easy part of the Knicks' schedule is almost over, and they've taken advantage of it, which is precisely what you're supposed to do. More important: They're a total joy to watch. Will they lose to the Nuggets? Maybe. The Celtics and Heat? Probably. But watching this team grow and improve has been the most fun any Knicks fan could have, and soon, we'll see them play against the big boys. They might get killed, but that we're not sure they'll get killed is a cause for celebration. This is about to get real exciting, even if it turns out bad. It's exciting because we can talk about it all.