This was already going to be a referendum on the 2020-21 Knicks, a workforce that, till this weekend, had introduced nothing however unrestrained glee to a ravenous basketball metropolis. This was already going to be about these Knicks, constructed on a basis of perception and resilience, if they might reverse this horrible tide of momentum that’s been carrying them sideways ever since they stepped off the workforce aircraft in Atlanta final week.
At its base, it nonetheless is. The Knicks, at least, can give Madison Square Garden one ultimate spasm of pleasure Wednesday night time, once they host the Hawks in Game 5 of this best-of-seven first-round sequence. At the least, they can earn themselves one other aircraft journey to Atlanta, and one other sport, and one other two days, minimal, of a basketball season that no person a lot needs to see finish, not but, not like this.
The Knicks, at least, can maintain serve on the Garden.
Force the Hawks to do the identical in Game 6, again in Atlanta.
Force them to think about the results of not doing that, with a Game 7 scheduled for Sunday on the Garden.
Of course, it is going to be about greater than that now. Hawks heart Clint Capela cleared his throat and entertained a Zoom room with some marvelously salty observations about the Knicks, about their fashion of play. He known as them soiled. He by no means really uttered the phrase “fugazy” however, man, he positive did describe the Knicks as a bunch of wannabe robust guys.
And this was the capper:
“Now we’re coming to your home to win this game again and send you on vacation.”
And you recognize what? Good for Capela. The Hawks ought to be assured. They ought to have a surplus of perception that they’ll finish issues in 5, that they’ll have the ability to have fun on the Knicks’ emblem at half courtroom (hopefully with out dodging concession-stand missiles). They have been the far superior workforce for 4 video games. They’ve absolutely earned the fitting to woof.
So now the query is: What will the Knicks do about that?
What can the Knicks do about that?
For a day, they selected to let Capela’s phrases stand with out rebuttal.
“Don’t care,” Julius Randle stated. “Don’t care. Don’t care.”
“I’m 32 years old,” Derrick Rose stated. “I never talked s–t like that in my whole life. I’m not going to start now once Clint Capela starts talking crazy. I’m too old for that s–t, bro.”
“We’ll see [Wednesday],” RJ Barrett stated.
Randle, once more: “Why would I give a hell what Clint Capela has to say?”
And that, too, is correctly. The Knicks have spent treasured little time, if any, telling anyone how good they expected to be this year, how improved they believed they have been. It was all about proving it. It was all about incomes credit score, not demanding it.
Play it, don’t say it.
Now they get to do it once more. Nobody is in search of fisticuffs, or verbal hijinks. Just play 4 quarters of basketball that extra intently resemble the final 4 months and never the earlier 4 video games. Do that and also you get 4 extra quarters in Atlanta Friday to show that studies of your demise have been tremendously exaggerated. Squeeze as a lot season as you can out of this, beginning Wednesday night time, beginning at 7:40 or so, beginning on the Garden.
Or begin trip sooner than you ever might have imagined.
“The challenge for us is to stay focused,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau stated, earlier than dismissing the Capela valedictory handle: “That’s just noise.”
“Be ready for the first quarter,” the coach stated. “That’s it.”
The Hawks aren’t any fluke, after all. They aren’t any joke. We have seen sufficient from them the primary 4 video games to consider that. They are a deeper workforce. They have a scary array of shooters, any of whom can get scorching immediately. They dedicated to shutting down Randle, and have. They have earned their swagger.
Earned the fitting to crow.
The Knicks? They earned the fitting to get this sport at dwelling, to rescue their season inside the big gymnasium on prime of Penn Station. They earned the fitting, Wednesday night time, to honor the 72 video games that preceded the playoffs, that allowed New York to care about them once more, allowed town sport a contemporary place of prominence within the metropolis’s soul.
The climate is getting higher, sure. But it nonetheless doesn’t appear heat sufficient to begin trip. Not now. Not but.