The Houston Rockets finished 17-55, the worst record of any team in this 72-game season. You have to be bad to fail 76% of the time, and they were: Houston had a 20-game losing streak, a seven-game slide and not one, not two, but three five-game runs of Ls. The Rockets spent nearly 60% of the season on losing streaks of at least five games. That is some opulent suckitude.
Can you tell Houston broke my heart in 1994? There is a connection to our here-and-now hardcourt heroes, one that hopefully makes it easier to cope with your nerves buzzing in the build-up to Game 2. I offer not in spite of Julius Randle’s Bad John Starks playoff debut and RJ Barrett shooting like 2020 RJ and Reggie Bullock shooting like 2020 RJ and Nerlens Noel going down and possibly out and the real-time excruciating exorcism of Elfrid Payton, but because of it. So. Here goes.
It’s. All. Good.
That’s not to say you can’t be all up in your surly and your salty. Sunday was my partner’s first Knicks playoff game. It was my 161st. Seeing her encounter the magnitude of every play, the mood swings, took me back to my first time.
She, in turn, was introduced to one of my most sacred family traditions and defense mechanisms: whenever my father and I were watching a Knicks or Rangers playoff game that wasn’t going well, he’d flip to the Mets game for a bit. The drop in stress was like getting the bends, only if the bends felt like sex and ecstasy wrapped in a rocket ship ride instead of weakness, paralysis and sometimes death.
By the end of Sunday’s game my partner and I were both drained and building a dizzying disdain for Trae Young, one we’ve relented on a bit given what he was subjected to Sunday night. Be hurt. Be angry. Rage against the dying of the dream of a 1-0 series lead. But I say it again: it’s all good.
This is the Knicks’ 75th season, going back to their inaugural BAA days. In every one of those 75 seasons, there were best-of-7 series; for the past 19 there’s been only best-of-7s. Do you know how many years the Knicks have ever won a best-of-7? A franchise whose history predates Jackie Robinson in Brooklyn, the Korean War and pretty much television?
That’s all. That’s it. The Knicks didn’t win their first until 1969; that season was the first of six straight to feature best-of-7 series wins. It took them nearly a quarter-century to win their first and it’d be 20 years after their glory days before the team did so again, defeating the Charlotte Hornets in the 1993 Eastern semis, then winning two such series a year later befoe falling agonizingly short of a third.
There’d be a five-year hiatus until New York swept Atlanta 4-0 in the 1999 Eastern semis. A year later they’d win their last best-of-7 in the Jeff Van Gundy era. Memorably. Then it was all quiet on the W front until 2013, when the Knicks almost hare’d the tortoise, going from up 3-0 to uncomfortably close to a Game 7. And here we are this year. And where is that, exactly?
It’s worth remembering those ‘13 Knicks when considering the new edition. That team is sainted in many fans’ eyes, an interesting outcome given their postseason was, relative to their position that year, a disappointment, from a certain point of view. The Knicks struggled mightily with a Celtics team missing their best player that season, Rajon Rondo, before immediately blowing the homecourt advantage and then the series to Indiana.
Of course, that team had an amazing regular season, one nobody saw coming. Nobody had that team winning as many games as they did or earning the two-seed or getting as far as they did as fast as they did. Sound familiar?
But here’s what’s all good, and I say this with all due adoration to the ‘13 team for being the oasis of light they were: this isn’t that. Now isn’t then. This isn’t an old-ass team led by a one-dimensional max-salaried star that’s maxed-out as far as the salary cap. This team didn’t luck into a successful formula because of injury that they’ll abandon next season.
The Knicks are young. Their best player does many things well. Cap space is ample. Draft picks grow full and fat on trees featuring extra picks. In 85% of their seasons all-time, they haven’t won a best-of-7. They’re worse at winning best-of-7s than the Rockets were winning games in a year when they lost 20 in a row! If the Knicks lose to the Hawks, they look closer to the franchise’s two golden ages as far as sustaining success than the outlier of 2013. If they win, this season’s their first A+ since 1999 and the future remains bright and boundless.
This sponsored post was published according to our guiding principles.