The Knicks Cannot Die

How many superstars or superteams have come into Madison Square Garden and created an all-time moment against the Knicks? Reggie Miller’s eight seconds of death. Michael Jordan going double-nickel. Steph Curry’s coming out party. Rarely does it ever seem like the Knicks are the ones who get to write a legend at the Garden. But they got to on Monday night: Thanks to a little chaos and maybe a swallowed whistle or two, this rugged band of misfit toys known as the New York Knicks, led by a struggling Jalen Brunson and Dr. Robotnik as their coach, pulled off some magic.

In the last 41 seconds of Game 2, the Knicks were down five to the Philadelphia 76ers. But a comedy of errors—the 76ers and their fans will emphasize “errors” there, staring a hole in the officials—follows a fortuitous bounce on a Jalen Brunson three-ball, which itself was followed by a slapstick loose-ball scramble. Kyle Lowry, typically a consummate pro if nothing else, kinda panics on the inbound but gets the ball to Tyrese Maxey, who arguably gets fouled but inarguably fails to secure the ball, making it easy for the Knicks to pounce on and steal. Josh Hart shovels it to Donte DiVincenzo on the wing, who misses a wide-open three; Isaiah Hartenstein rips the rebound away from Lowry, falls, and pushes the ball out to OG Anunoby, who swings it back to DiVincenzo again, a few feet behind the top of the key. DiVincenzo sinks it this time, earning the ultra-rare Mike Breen double “BANG!” It’s honestly one of the most amazing things I’ve seen.

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It’s emblematic of who the Knicks have been all year: just the toughest, scrappiest team conditioned to death by an absolute sociopath of a coach. They were built for the never-say-die moments; as long as a game is close in the final minutes, they can pull some heroics off. The Knicks scored six points in under 30 seconds to come back and win Monday night’s game. A pair of Anunoby free-throws provided the final three-point margin.

And look, I get it. By the letter of the law, I guess there could’ve been a foul called, though the NBA rulebook itself is maddeningly imprecise on what constitutes a foul in nearly every situation. If ever there was a “Let em play, ref!” moment, let it be that final minute. That’s what playoff basketball is for. And frankly, crying about the refs is just unbecoming, particularly when the losing team does it.

As for that losing team, the Sixers, I feel bad for Joel Embiid, trudging down the court like Captain Ahab, high off strong doses of painkillers, foot falling off the bone rotisserie-style. He posted the most painful-looking 34-10-6 line I’ve ever seen. Tyrese Maxey, sick before tipoff, tried to Jordan Flu Game his way into immortality, and wound up one turnover away from doing achieving at least a Philadelphia-local version of it. And the Sixers wound up once again on the wrong side of a heartbreaking ending.

They’re a good team and I don’t think the series is quite over. They still have a chance even things on their home court. But Embiid is probably not getting better or healthier, and these Knicks are not getting any less rabid.

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