Thursday, December 16, 2010

Moral victories are for minor league cultures

Over the past decade, Knicks fans have put up with terrible basketball. Terrible, terrible basketball. So I can understand why fans are extremely excited about last night's loss against the Celtics because I am an extent.

It was the 1990s the last time there was a game of this relevance at Madison Square Garden. The World's Most Famous Arena, a place that used to be the mecca of professional basketball, had lost its luster. But for anyone who watched or attended last night's game, that playoff atmosphere that transcended the Garden throughout the 90s is back in a big way.

The Knicks looked great. They led for most of the game against arguably the NBA's best team. Every time Boston tried to inch closer in the fourth quarter, the Knicks had an answer on the offensive end. It was great to watch the Knicks be competitive once again with the league's elite.

But that's where it ends. Last night was an exception and I will allow it. After a decade of pathetic failure on the court, the Knicks gave their fans something to be excited about. And that is a big deal in itself.

Now that we know the Knicks can play with anybody in the league, please refer back to the title of this post. "Good game" is no longer good enough. You want to bang around with the big boys? Then there's no such thing as a moral victory, you have to win the game. Period.

By no means am I trying to take anything away from the Knicks' performance last night. They suffered a few late defensive lapses that left one of the all-time great shooters open and they couldn't close out the Celtics. But not many teams have since Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo joined Paul Pierce in Boston.

Speaking of Pierce, I hate him so much. So much. His game-winner was awesome to watch, as long as you're not a Knicks fan. And stepping in to prevent Amar'e Stoudemire from dunking home the go-ahead basket gave Pierce the chance to play hero on the next possession. He's a great player but even he might have to admit that the "rivalry" status of Knicks-Celtics is on the precipice of existence once again.

The Knicks can take a lot of positives out of this performance but hopefully those good feelings don't last long. They still lost the game and their eight-game win streak in the process and they come back tomorrow night to play LeBron James and the Miami Heat. The same LeBron James who spurned coming to New York in favor of Miami.

How great would it be to watch the Knicks end the Heat's current 10-game win streak? It's actually the only acceptable outcome in my mind. This is a team that should be motivated for many reasons: meaningful home game, coming off a tough loss and facing a player who didn't want to play for them, despite all the potential benefits.

So no, a buzzer-beating loss to the Heat won't resonate the same good feelings Knicks fans have right now. This is no longer a minor league basketball culture in New York and there are NO MORAL VICTORIES. Win the game or be disappointed. It sounds harsh, but I doubt the Knicks would have it any other way.

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