We are nicely previous the level the place something the Knicks do ought to shock us, as a result of they way back stopped stunning themselves. Whatever doubts, no matter questions they might have had about themselves at the begin, or throughout any of the low moments and dropping streaks, these are over. Those are gone. Those are lifeless.
“We feel,” Julius Randle mentioned, “like we can beat anybody.”
Sunday they beat the Clippers, 106-100. If it isn’t the crown-jewel win of the season, it’s positive in the dialog — on the street, on nationwide TV, towards a scorching group that includes each its stars, following a two-game tour via the Denver-Phoenix woodshed. And right here’s the greatest a part of the manner they reacted to it:
Just one other recreation. Just one other win. Just one other chapter on this 72-part serial that will alternately shock and stun nearly everybody else round them however looks as if simply one other day at the workplace to the guys in the uniforms.
They at the moment are two wins (or a win and a Boston loss) away from formally ending in the Eastern Conference Top 6 and avoiding the dreaded play-in spherical (which in some NBA circles months in the past was derisively dubbed the “Knicks Invitational” when it appeared that was the solely manner they’d squeeze in a postseason recreation).
They stay in fourth place in the East with 4 video games to go, with a good probability, nonetheless, to earn home-court benefit in the first spherical of the predominant playoff draw.
Neither of this stuff would have appeared attainable, or believable, again in December. And but right here they’re, at the doorstep now, after knocking off considered one of the real favorites to make it out of the West, after beating Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and — cherry on high of a stack of cherries on high of the sundae — beating them each which manner however unfastened throughout the important portion of Sunday’s fourth quarter.
“We think about it,” Derrick Rose mentioned of the Knicks’ inching nearer to some unfathomable regular-season accomplishments. “But we know we’re not finished with what we want to accomplish. We want to keep this going.”
The irony of Sunday’s win is that the bedrock upon which this magic-carpet trip has been constructed — Julius Randle pouring in 30 or 35 factors every time wanted — was absent this time. Randle scored solely 14, though six of them got here thanks to 3 king-sized baskets down the stretch, when the Knicks completed the Clippers off as soon as and for all.
Still, whilst he languished via a 7-for-19 (0-for-4 from 3) taking pictures quagmire, it was Randle’s struggles which highlighted in vivid, yellow ink simply how far alongside this group has come. The Knicks seized management of the recreation despite Randle, not due to him, and that’s not one thing they may even have imagined not way back.
Instead they turned to Rose (25 factors, eight assists, 32 sensible minutes) and workhorse RJ Barrett (18 factors, seven rebounds, 4 assists, 45(!) minutes) and Reggie Bullock, who had 5 3s and 24 factors and a plus-15 ranking throughout 46(!!) minutes. It wasn’t simply encouraging to see others step up as a result of Randle’s output was muted; it was emboldening as a result of that is precisely what groups are going to do to the Knicks in the playoffs — run a number of defenders at Randle, make him uncomfortable, dare another person to beat them.
Sunday, nearly all of Randle’s teammates volunteered for the job.
“The game tells you who gets the shots,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau mentioned. “You’re responsible to make the right read and find the right guy.”
Said Randle: “The beauty of our team is that at any given moment anyone can step up.”
The deeper magnificence is in the perception they create to each recreation now, even after getting drilled in Denver and drubbed in Phoenix. Alec Burks and Immanuel Quickley weren’t out there for this one. Mitchell Robinson remains to be sidelined. There is no person outdoors the touring celebration who checked out this six-game street swing west — even in the center of the profitable streak that instantly preceded it — and noticed 3-2 via 5 (with a possible depleted Lakers group awaiting them Tuesday night time).
But the touring celebration did. The Knicks, actually, would virtually actually inform you they need to be 4-1, that they sabotaged themselves Friday night in Arizona. That is who they’re. That is what they’ve turn into. When there have been zero expectations connected to them, they’d their very own. When these prospects had been upgraded to “modest,” they demanded extra.
And now …
“Don’t change now,” Thibodeau mentioned. “This is what we’ve done all year.”
Rose known as it “running through the finish line,” which is a most well-liked Thibodeau expression. The Knicks are working there. They’re sprinting there. Let everybody else empty the thesaurus on the lookout for methods to elucidate it; they’re the place they’ve believed they need to be all alongside. Why change now?