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Knicks 134, Hornets 131 (OT): “I BELIEVE”

Deeper and deeper in love

Charlotte Hornets v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Red sky at night =
sailor’s delight;
Red sky in the morning?
Sailor, take warning.

The New York Knicks entered last night’s game against the Charlotte Hornets in search of definition. Thus far Schrödinger’s cats competed to the end before capitulating in Memphis, then destroyed a Detroit team still in its infancy befpre outlasting equally infantile Orlando. Charlotte was playing without LaMelo Ball, which is like playing the adagio from Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 23 without the piano. For the Knickerbockers, it was a chance to get to 3-1, pure and simple. Minus the simple.

New York won a game that was opened with a red sky at night before running into a blaring morning red late in the action. They set the tone early, making their first four shots while Charlotte was missing four of their first five. There was an immediate sense on the night of . . . not inevitability. Not predestination. Maybe a stronger sense of possibility than normal. The Knicks are nowhere near ready to view any game as a gimme, but if the here-and-now Hornets were a four-legged animal, there’d be a couple vultures circling over them. The game was there for the taking.

You always hear teams warned “Don’t look ahead.” Poppycock. Animals gather food every year before winter; if they didn’t, many would die. Sometimes looking to tomorrow provides the jump-start to address what’s needed today. The Knicks’ schedule after this game features a septet to rival Kurosawa’s, so a win over the here-and-now Hornets would not only keep the early era of good feelings going, it could come in handy in April, when tiebreakers matter.

So as the Knicks — care of the offense, for once — built a steady lead and held it all night entering the fourth, I admit: I was ready to believe. Why not? Stranger things have happened. Derrick Rose is now a fairly consistent 3-point shooter. RJ Barrett continues to show appetite and availability in year four, a trait worth putting a pin in with the Big 3 drafted around him (Zion/Ja/Garland) either currently out injured or having missed more games than RJ since 2019 (or both). And it’s an odd-numbered season, so if the last 4+ years were anything to go buy Julius Randle should be good this year. At the very least, our best players don’t do . . . whatever this is to their hair. Add a little game sweat and it looked like something out of Year One.

The Hornets have been decent the past couple of seasons; even shorthanded, a run was expected and arrived, care of the crafty Gordon Hayward (the rare “crafty” right-hander), Kelly Oubre and PJ Washington; the visitors won the fourth quarter. But these Knicks aren’t just figurative floater kings (Randle, Brunson, Immanuel Quickley and Isaiah Hartenstein all made floaters in this one, with Mitchell Robinson adding a 3-foot fadeaway). They floated above the fray much of the evening, leading before falling behind late, then turning things around.

Brunson led the way, scoring a dazzling 27, adding a career-high 13 assists and defending a 4-on-1 break late in the fourth that Charlotte not only didn’t score on, they couldn’t even get a shot off two different times. JR and RJ scored 40 inefficient-but-still-welcome points. The Knick defense got stops when they absolutely needed them. Mitchell Robinson was a presence. In a very different way, so was Cam Reddish. As will be the case many nights this year, hopefully, the Knicks won as a team again. Team Starchaser keeps learning how to do it themselves. Good for them.

Quoth normanhathaway: “I BELIEVE.” I stayed up all night, forgoing sleep, to write two different recaps of this game for two different sites, and now my eyes won’t stay open. I wouldn’t have done that if I thought this team’s ceiling was 32-50. The going gets tough starting tomorrow night in Milwaukee, but there is an early vibe around these Knicks, with their actual point guard and their overflow of good young players, to suggest this will not be their funeral. So let’s see what we learn about them moving forward. What we know about them so far is they’re easy to root for and they’ve won three straight. That’s not fairly defined. But like the cat in Schrödinger’s theorem, undefined can be okay, especially after a year where no one was happy with the final product. Onward ho!