Knick may be running out of time in frantic NBA playoff race

How dangerous did it look?

This dangerous: there have been scattered boos bouncing throughout Madison Square Garden in the third quarter. Boos have been few this yr, and much between. Even on the uncommon nights when the Knicks haven’t been at their sharpest on their house flooring …

Well, for starters, the two,000 or so people in attendance are principally simply glad to be right here, as an alternative of cooped up in their basements as they have been for about 400 straight nights not way back. Also, these are principally Knicks followers, they usually know what a boo-able basketball workforce actually appears like.

So sure, the boos have been uncommon. But, sure, the Knicks had earned them. Rudy Gay made three free throws with 3:45 left in the third quarter and the Garden scoreboard insisted the Spurs, stunningly, have been up 75-58. The Knicks have been flatlining. Worse, in Miami and in Atlanta, the Heat have been smushing the 76ers and the Hawks have been smearing the Magic.

An evening of celebration on the Garden — an evening after the Knicks had formally cinched a playoff spot — had turned bitter and sideways. The post-game excuses would have been legit — first sport again off a West Coast journey is all the time a bear, Derrick Rose was in civvies, and he’s been the Knicks’ second-best participant for weeks — but additionally irrelevant.

“You get into stuff together,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau mentioned. “And you get out of stuff together.”

He was saying this simply and breezily, as a result of the Knicks have been a half-hour faraway from getting out of it collectively, making a exceptional comeback, winning the game 102-98, preserving tempo with the Hawks (40-31) and the Heat (39-31).

RJ Barrett

It took a 26-6 run over 10:15 to offer the Knicks the lead again, 84-81, 7 ½ minutes left in the sport. It took some clutch capturing — and 18-for-18 from the road — and it took 30 factors and 10 rebounds off the bench from Alec Burks, forgotten man currently. It took an unlimited run of clutch capturing from RJ Barrett. But they obtained out of it.

“It’s a long game,” Thibodeau mentioned. “It’s a 48-minute game.”

The Knicks are at a wierd half of the schedule proper now, and it’s attainable they’re running out of season to make one ultimate vault, a ultimate leap, sneak again into place for the 4-vs.-5 first-round sequence. That would enable them to keep away from the Bucks in the primary spherical, give them a real puncher’s probability at solely their second postseason sequence win since 2000.

But they need to preserve profitable. And the Hawks and Heat — each enjoying some terrific basketball proper now — have to supply a little bit bit of assist. The Knicks can solely management the primary half of that equation. Somehow, Thursday evening, they did. Seventy video games down. Two to go.

Thibodeau was 12 years outdated when the Knicks received their first championship in 1970. He was 15 three years and two days later once they received their second title, a full-blown acolyte of the Red Holzman Way.

“A lot of years ago,” Thibodeau mentioned, laughing.

Another lifetime in the past, too. Thibodeau is not a wide-eyed Connecticut child, becoming a member of hundreds of different youngsters from Queens and Quogue, from The Bronx and Bensonhurst, Westchester and Jersey and Staten Island, all of the precincts the place the Knicks first dropped anchor in the souls of younger followers.

This is his job now. Thibodeau wasn’t about to depart from his business-first, business-only demeanor, share items of his soul like he was handing out birthday cake, regardless of the Knicks securing the playoffs.

Still: he understands. He will get how significant this season has been for Knicks followers — particularly youngsters who have been the identical age Thibodeau was again in the day, 12-year-old youngsters and 15-year-old youngsters who’ve zero concept what it’s wish to see a Knicks workforce play as this workforce has performed, to attain what this workforce has achieved.

That a lot he’ll cop to. He’s glad for these youngsters. He’s glad for these followers. He’s glad that this workforce has re-established what has lengthy been an unshakeable bond between town and its suburbs and its oldest professional hoops consultant.

“Growing up in Connecticut, being here in the ’90s, knowing what basketball means to the city, it’s great that this group of guys we have reflect the kinds of things this city is all about. They’ve given them something to be proud of and that they can cheer about.”

Seventy video games down. Two to go. Then the true enjoyable begins, and also you don’t need to be a child to be longing for that.

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