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Knicks 111, Heat 103: “Life After Death”

IQ led a masterful comeback in Miami.

NBA: New York Knicks at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

*Puffy Voice* *Wind blows through the trees in Greenwood cemetery, a shimmering synth plays in the distance*

Yay though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table for me, in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the lord, forever.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Gather ‘round, I got a story to tell. It’s another in an endless succession of Robert Randolph’s Friday nights here in Brooklyn, but this is a special one. Twenty-five years ago today, one of, if not the very greatest New York City albums ever made was released. It was the late, great Christopher Wallace’s double opus, Life After Death. A sophomore effort that took the incredible, ambidextrous talent of the greatest rapper who ever lived, and expanded our idea of what we thought the King from St. James was capable of, and what we previously believed the rap album was capable of.

The sky may have been the limit coming into this season of Knicks basketball, but it’s been lowered considerably — nearly to the point it crushed the team stepping into the den of Heat culture this evening in Miami. The season is basically over, but not quite over yet. The Knicks stand five back from the final, pitiful play-in spot held by the wildly disappointing 36-37 Atlanta Hawks, with nine games to play including this near certain L. Breen said that the Knicks could go 7-2 in their final nine, incredibly unlikely, and they’d still need the Hawks to go 2-7 to sniff the final play in spot. Julius Randle is out, which I’m unsurprisingly thrilled about.

The Eastern Conference-leading Heat make a particularly rough opponent for the Knicks. We just matchup horribly with these current iterations of our rosters. They’re only between a game and a game and a half ahead of the three teams trailing them and need every win. But who knows. Somebody’s gotta die and they bleed just like us. My wife is out for drinks with work friends, so I took my kids for Taiwanese at 886 on St. Marks for dinner after school, and am currently watching this game with a double shot of espresso and a gallon of water. Let’s go.

We got a nice amount of RJ ball in the first quarter. I appreciated a 3 off the bounce, but what I really loved was RJ abusing the confusing decision the Heat made to double him early and often. RJ was making great, quick passes out of the doubles to hurt Miami and it suggested a future we’ve all been dreaming of. This is quite the opposite of the occasional “AB ball possessions”, during which a thin twisting crease across my forehead, the centers of my palms, and the tops of my feet started spontaneously streaming blood. Is that bad?

The recent rift between Notorious Thug Jimmy Butler and Eric Spoelstra was a source of conversation in the first quarter. I just want to say even if this makes me a cop, I’m team Spoelstra all the way. Seems like a lovely guy who is one of, if not the best working coaches in basketball. As opposed to Butler, who comes off as a gaping asshole with a unique talent for pissing off everyone he comes into contact with. He also had 17 points and six assists in the first half, if you’re trying to figure out how he keeps getting away with this garbage.

The Knicks looked good in the first half. They were hitting shots, and smart shots. A lot of examples of guys making the right pass. No grouchy assholes monopolizing every possessions, and yet they were down bad because the Heat didn’t miss a single shot. They shot 100% from the field in the first half, and it wasn’t even due to bad defensive every possession. They just play this wily, intelligent, wildly efficient brand of ball and hit every shot they’re supposed to hit. Incredibly aggravating.

The game had this very lackadaisical early energy. All the whistles were extremely late and you could see the players stop before the whistles came. Both sides were loose with the ball. It felt like Summer League.

The second half was more of the same. The Knicks worked incredibly hard for their buckets, while the Heat appeared not to really have to try at all. It was weird, I watched the game, and it seemed like the Knicks were trading blows, but every time you glanced at the scoreboard the Heat lead was larger. And here’s the thing, it makes sense. If the Knicks were at “full strength” and could add any bench player from the Western Conference All Stars, they still couldn’t compete with a team this deep, talented, experienced, and well coached.

Until of course, in the fourth, the Knicks kicked in the door, coming all the way back from down 17 to up three with five minutes to play. How did they pull off this dark magic, you may ask? It wasn’t RJ. It wasn’t Obi Toppin. Every Player Hater’s favorite *fourth guard at best* Immanuel Quickley (along with Deuce McBride and Quentin Grimes) led a 38-15 quarter against the best team in the East at home with a huge lead. IQ scored 20 of his 23 points for the game in the final 12 minutes. He pulled insane running floaters directly out of his ass and into the basket. He turned lead into gold. He pushed an aggressive spending bill through a Republican held Congress with a Democrat in the White House. He solved the Zodiac Killer cold case. IQ said take your Heat Culture, take your record, take your superior talent, and go fuck yourself. You’re nobody till somebody kills you.

Notes:

  • You’ll never convince me it’s a good thing Evan Fournier is now our all time leader for three-pointers made in a season. A testament to Starks he held the crown this long. Never will not be perverse.
  • The Heat have crypto and Chase Bank ads on their court. Playing both sides of the fence. Seems on brand for a Pat Riley franchise.
  • The three big points of contention online this week has been the never-ending debate over where and how much IQ should play, if Sims is good enough to let Mitch walk, and if Toppin is a bust. Please unfollow or block anyone who makes these omelet brain arguments. They’re currently, actively making you dumber by exposing you to their dumb, bad, radioactive takes.
  • Max Strus sounds like a guy who orders the Schlag in a Tarantino film.
  • That’s all folks. A ton of winnable games down the stretch, but I fear all we’re really doing here is decreasing our move up in the lottery odds. The good news is we didn’t blow a shitload of winnable games at home against the likes of Orlando we all knew would come back to haunt us at some point because our asshole coach refused to play his best players.
  • R.I.P. to the greatest rapper who ever lived, Christopher Wallace, the Notorious B.I.G., the great Biggie Smalls. Knicks are off Saturday, before our after or in the middle of watching the good players we have no shot at drafting in March Madness, crank some Life After Death and put one in the air for the GOAT.