There are some nights that are better than others at Madison Square Garden. This was one of the good things. The defending champions were in town, even if they were missing starters. The home team has been on alert, with seven straight wins and counting. Every seat was full, and there was juice overflowing in every corner of the fifth floor old gymnasium.
It is amusing to remember when nights like this were common here, but it is more important for the present occupants in the orange and blue uniform to catch a glimpse of these nights, and the more valuable it is for them to hear. This is what it’s like to play basketball at a level befitting a crowded city room. This is what it looks like. This is the feeling.
“I love our team, I love the way they play, the way we prepare,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said after watching the Knicks obliterate the Warriors, 132-94, adding their eighth straight win to their slowly growing pile. “But we have to know it’s still coming, you can’t breathe out, every day is about getting better and how to get better.”
However, even Thibodeau couldn’t bring himself to call the regulars back after they built a 100-81 lead after three, and after the Subs came and finished Golden State. And the Knicks play the Raptors on Wednesday, and there was no need to make anyone work any more than they had to. This is not the usual MO for stiffs
“I’ve never seen that before,” Galen Bronson quipped. “First time for everything.”
But, then, this is not a standard Knicks problem. Not the last two weeks. They injured a manageable part of their schedule anyway, standing with nursing injuries to Steve Curry and Andrew Wiggins. But the greatest comfort may be the Knicks’ health, and their ability to answer the buzzer night after night.
It starts with Bronson – brilliant again on Tuesday with 21 points and five assists in just 30 minutes. There have been at least three times this season when Bronson could have flagged down civilian animals—perhaps she should have—and not just take a break to manage the pregnancy. But he preached in his introductory press conference that he takes his role as team captain most seriously ever.
“We knew right away,” Thibodeau had said before the game, recalling that the day after Bronson became a real Nick, he was at the team’s training facility working, practicing, and preparing for the basics of leadership.
He was a longtime Knicks fan named Woody Allen who famously said, “Eighty percent of success in life is just showing up.” Bronson appears. So did the rest of the Knicks. Julius Randle plays every day. RJ Barrett, Emmanuel Kwekley, and Isaiah Hartenstein play every day. Quentin Grimes missed time early but is an essential part of the team’s fabric now; He sprained his ankle late in the second quarter on Tuesday but was ready to play at the start of the third quarter.
You’d assume Bronson might have an opinion about whether or not Grimes should play a sore spot; This assumption will be correct.
“I don’t think I’m allowed to repeat what I said,” said Bronson, smiling.
If you want the perfect recipe for nix, this is it. This is. They appear. And lately, they’ve played a little bit of defense when they come up. A month ago, it seemed like the team and the coach were so far apart, on different pages, that it was like being on the first and last page of “The Power Broker,” Robert Carew’s biography of Robert Moses that checks in at a cool 1,162 pages.
Now the five starting players and the coach look like a six-man group, they’re closely interconnected. They have the longest winning streak in the league. They look a lot like the way they looked their best two years ago. It can be fleeting. Winning streaks end. Often the part of the season that best defines a team’s image is what it does after a winning streak.
“No one talks about winning streaks,” said Julius Randel, after 15 points, 12 rebounds in three seconds less than 30 minutes of play. “We’re just playing for each other now.”
Still. It’s a great show now. And despite some occasional twitches from the Warriors fans at home on Tuesday, most of the 19,812 people seemed to be having a great evening.
“When you see something that works, you want to replicate it as often as possible,” said Randall.
Eight repeats in a row now. and counting.
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