The Other Shoe
Just when it looked like they were who we thought they were, these Knicks gave us their biggest surprise yet.
GOOOOOOOD Morning, Knick Fans!!!! Last night’s win was too big to encapsulate in one newsletter, so we’re breaking it down into two editions today. First, you’ll get my big picture thoughts on the significance of this win here, in a complementary edition for all. Then, for full subscribers only, check your inbox again in a bit for a full comprehensive analysis of the W.
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Let’s do this.
The Other Shoe
If Game 1 of Knicks Hawks was a night that made you question why you ever became a fan to begin with, Game 2 gave you your answer, and then some.
There are wins, there are big wins, and then there are moments. And on Wednesday night at the Garden, everyone who witnessed the gut check of all gut checks, whether in person or watching from afar, experienced a moment.
Moments like this aren’t born out of a series or even a season. They are aged like a fine wine, with years’ worth of blood, sweat and tears baked into an emotional roller coaster that you never want to end but can barely stand to be on. For as much as the 24-point turnaround from down 15 to a 9-point win was sensational and captivating in its own right, the genesis of why it meant so much has as much to do with the decades that preceded it as the actions that precipitated it.
As a wise man once said: to live is to suffer, but to survive, well…that’s to find meaning in the suffering. No one has experienced more collective suffering than the Knicks fan base over the last 20 years. That suffering has taken it’s toll on different fans in different ways. Some got defensive, some remained optimistic, some joined in on the jokes and some just went away.
Whatever the individual reactions though, this season has brought everyone back and brought everyone together. Moreover, it has brought with it the realization that of all the suffering wasn’t for naught. Our appreciation for this magic ride is only as high as it is because of that suffering. We cherish the good because we know full well the brunt of the bad.
But with that dynamic comes another reality: that the pain of the past is always simmering just below the surface. It’s why, so many times this season, with every losing streak, with every fourth quarter that didn’t go our way; hell, with every missed Randle three or RJ drive, there crept in the same subtle, sneaking sensation that like a house of cards, it was all going to come tumbling down.
You root for the Knicks. You know it’s coming. You can’t have nice things. The Knicks are where nice things go to die. Silly you. You have no one to blame but yourself. This is where it ends. This is where the dream dies.
At no time was the little voice inside our heads louder than at halftime last night - down 13 in a game they’d have been losing by twice as much had it not been for a couple of Tom Thibodeau’s old thoroughbreds, neither as fast as they used to be but with enough muscle memory to keep us in the race at the halfway point.
All the suffering was right there. We could touch it. Taste it. This was the night, finally, that the other shoe would drop. The muscle memory of this perpetual loser of a franchise would be the only thing kicking in on this evening.
Until, of course, it didn’t. Until the team that surprised us all, time and time and time again, had one more surprise up it’s sleeve.
No, this would not be how this season ended. Yes, what they’d build up over 72 games was real. It could withstand the force of a hellacious shooting slump and the six worst consecutive quarters of basketball their best player had put forth all season long. Grit was not merely a buzzword; it was beacon of hope. An ethos that this head coach imbued to a roster tailor-made with guys who all had something to prove.
More than any schematic adjustment or lineup change, the Knicks are still in this series and in these playoffs because of their grit. It is what has differentiated them all season long, and it is why, for all of the suffering that has taken place here, this group feels like the one that will put all of those bad memories to rest once and for all.
And in a city built on grit, that merely asked for a team built in their image, without any of the baseless talk that this organization has so often been about through all of the dark times, they are as perfect an answer to our prayers as any of us could have imagined.
The other shoe, it seems, will not be dropping after all. This team - this family, as they refer to themselves - simply refuses to give in to our PTSD that has been two decades in the making. At some point, the journey will end, but not like this, not with a whimper, and certainly not without a fight.
On Wednesday night, the Knicks fought as much as any team wearing this uniform ever has. They fought around screens, they fought through slumps, the fought to get out of their own heads, and most of all, they fought for each other. There is no selfishness on this roster. At no point did anyone think they were bigger than the game plan. Make the next rotation. Seek out the next pass. Defend the next action. Do your job.
That is what the 2020-21 New York Knicks are, and once and for all, we should stop doubting them. They have earned our trust.
20 years of suffering-infused doubt…vanquished in less than six months.
This season may not end in a championship, but that’s an accomplishment as worthy of our praise and admiration as anything the Knicks have ever done.
This is why we root. This is why we keep the faith. This is why we stay.
This is why we’re fans.
See you later this morning for the second of today’s newsletters, complete with a full breakdown and analysis of this win, for full subscribers only. #BlackLivesMatter