They will always remember this night, the 15,047 males, ladies and youngsters who had been so rattling fortunate to be contained in the Garden. Trae Young shouting at them to be quiet when it was over, elevating an index finger to his lips and doing his villainous finest to develop into this era’s Reggie Miller, shouldn’t be the picture they’ll bear in mind.
Knicks fans will at all times assume at first about being collectively in this constructing, celebrating a profitable Knicks staff and a return to playoff basketball at final. More than something, they’ll bear in mind celebrating the fun of residing, and respiration, and screaming at the highest of their lungs for one thing they care deeply about because the pandemic lastly begins fading to black.
This was an excruciatingly painful Game 1 defeat, no query about it. Young took the ball in the long run with the rating tied, beat Frank Ntilikina off the dribble, and hit one among his patented floaters within the lane with nine-tenths of a second left earlier than putting again at the group that had profanely chanted his title. If nothing else, the 107-105 final was proof constructive that the Knicks simply aren’t proficient sufficient to win when Young scores 32 and Julius Randle scores 15 whereas lacking 17 of 23 photographs.
But on so many ranges, this was essentially the most satisfying playoff loss the Knicks have ever suffered. Ever. Maybe you needed to be there to know. Before the sport, Tom Thibodeau recalled that Larry Johnson’s four-point play towards the Pacers within the 1999 Eastern Conference finals was the loudest he’d ever heard the Garden. I used to be courtside for that second, and would second Thibs’ movement. I might additionally argue that I’d by no means heard a playoff crowd louder within the first half than Sunday night’s crowd was proper out of the gate.
“It was amazing in here, better than I could ever imagine,” RJ Barrett stated. His teammate, Derrick Rose, referred to as it “everything that we expected and probably a little bit more.”
The fans exploded on an early Randle basket. They chanted Obi Toppin’s title after a high-flying dunk. They went wild in response to an Immanuel Quickley 3. They almost blew the roof off the place after Barrett posterized Bogdan Bogdanovic with a windmill on the quick break.
Much as they tried, the fans couldn’t will their staff to victory. Young had the final snicker, and the Knicks fans went dwelling grumbling concerning the late-game officiating that, of their minds, mocked Hawks coach Nate McMillan’s pre-series declare that the league needs the big-market Knicks to advance to the following spherical.
So be it. Game 2 can swing the momentum proper again to the Knicks, and hey, this was one postseason night when it wasn’t solely concerning the scoreboard anyway. Winning wasn’t every little thing, or the one factor, after all of the horrors the town has endured over the previous 14 months. This was extra of a neighborhood revival than a basketball recreation. This was extra of a New York comeback than a Knicks comeback, and albeit, it was exhilarating to sit down in on it.
In the lead-up to the Knicks’ first look within the playoffs since 2013, Thibodeau spoke of wanting to offer the fans “something to be proud of.” He’d already achieved that by delivering a 41-win season that no person noticed coming, and by establishing a tradition of grit and accountability that would make the Knicks engaging to marquee gamers within the close to future. The form of marquee gamers who win championships.
Not that Thibodeau was targeted on brighter days forward, or on the uplifting crowd assist, within the wake of this stinging Game 1 defeat. “Having fans, I think, is great,” he stated. “And we’ve got to play better.”
New Yorkers know what this staff is, and what this staff shouldn’t be. Stars across the league ceaselessly speak about Knicks fans as essentially the most educated within the recreation, as eager observers who acknowledge and respect team-centric play and earnest hustle greater than their friends in different cities. Those fans fell laborious for this 2020-21 staff not as a result of they consider it’s a official championship contender, however as a result of it nearly at all times performed laborious, and performed for each other.
The Knicks did each towards the Hawks of their best-of-seven opener, and simply fell quick. In different years, a gut-punch postseason consequence like this would have felt like the tip of the world to some. New Yorkers who weathered the pandemic know higher now.
Everything goes to be OK. The solar will come up tomorrow, and Thibs might be again within the movie room when he isn’t breaking down his staff’s errors within the health club.
After all, New York gained on Sunday night. Who cares what the ultimate scoreboard says?