In the later-1990s, I spent quite a bit of time working on the road. I was fortunate to spend those travels with a very good friend, and fellow Knicks fan. Whenever possible, the two of us would take in an NBA game whenever we had a bit of time to kill in a basketball city somewhere far away. While in Atlanta one year, we were lucky to be in town while the Knicks were paying a visit. In our youthful exuberance, we strolled around the arena proclaiming loudly that Phillips Arena was now “Madison Square Garden South.” To make a long story short, the Knicks ended up losing that game on a missed free throw by Allan Houston in the final seconds. The game would have been tied. I’ve always carried that memory around with me as a symbol of basketball hubris. Don’t tempt the basketball gods, as Phil Jackson might say.
We’re nearly 20 years beyond that fateful moment, but I still dread the Knicks’ tilts against the Hawks. This is especially true with the new Spursy approach the franchise has taken in the Mike Budenholzer era. It’s a team of no-frills players, who play a mistake free brand of hoops. They shoot the ball extremely well from both 2-point and 3-point range and they are relatively good at protecting the ball. On the other hand, they are the worst offensive rebounding team in the NBA and the 2nd worst rebounding team overall. If the Knicks are going to beat them tonight, they’re going to have to limit second opportunities and get them to make a few more mistakes than is typical for the Hawks.
One of the keys, which harkens back to our Melo-less loss to the Cavs, is to keep moving the ball on offense. The Knicks can’t forget the hot hand, whether it’s Porzingis (especially if it’s Porzingis) or Afflalo or a guy who’s typically lower on the totem pole. Keep that ball moving, find the guy who’s rolling, and play more mistake free basketball than the Hawks. The Knicks play these guys three times in very short order and it would be VERY nice to take 2 of 3 from them somehow. This is a good test for the Knicks to see how well our own brand of basketball can hold up in the face of a very smart and crafty opponent, who gain quite a bit from their coaching.
Let’s get this one fellas. May the Force be with you.