The Knicks are officially a team no one wants to play for –

CLEVELAND — The game is over, the series is over, the arena, which sounded like the inside of a morgue for two and a half hours, emptied as quickly as if they had announced that free money was scattered along the sidewalks, covering Euclid Avenue.

There were 19 seconds left in the game, 19 seconds left in the Cavaliers’ season, and it was here that they chose to raise the white flag, making official what had been obvious in almost every inch of these five games and these 12 days: they had been roughed up by the deepest, smartest, best team.

The Knicks had rolled them.

“We got punched in the mouth,” Cleveland coach JB Bickerstaff said.

The buzzer rang and the Cavs wandered listlessly, like a drunken boxer who didn’t know if he’d been knocked down by an uppercut or a right cross. The Knicks took off their jerseys. Mitch Robinson hugged Immanuel Quickley. Jalen Brunson hugged RJ Barrett. The Knicks had entered this series underdogs. They came out of the flat something else.

They are, officially, a team that nobody wants to see.

Except, of course, for a fan base that has been starving to see basketball like this for years, for decades, perhaps ever since the legendary Knicks who not only won but won in style. and grace and passion.

“The way this team plays resonates with all of our fans,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said after their 106-95 victory that clinched this best-of-seven playoff series four to one, and earned them a berth in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time in 10 years and only the second time since 2000.

The Knicks embrace the Cavaliers with the complete series.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Knicks guard RJ Barrett holds up two fingers with World Wide Wes as he walks off the court after the Knicks beat the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Po

“They play hard, they play smart, and they play together. When you play that way in New York it’s always recognized. You need everyone in a situation like that to win away from home and play like we did and that’s a credit to our whole team.”

How awesome was this one? The Knicks were never behind and only tied twice, the last time 10-10. Of the eight Knicks who played, seven had plus-minus ratings, led by Barrett’s plus-21, reflecting a terrific third straight game in which he had 21 points, four rebounds and four assists.

They did this despite losing Julius Randle late in the first half after Randle came out assertive and aggressive, scoring 13 points and six assists in 16 minutes before hurting his ankle again. But the Knicks are playing with such confidence that Obi Toppin stepped in and scored all 12 of his points in the second half in relief of Randle.

“The next man mentality,” Brunson said.

“My approach is the same every time I go into a game,” Toppin said. “Be aggressive, bring a lot of energy and have fun. We all did that today.”

They did, all of them. The Cavaliers will have nightmares all summer about how Robinson intimidated his duo of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen in the frontcourt, and on Wednesday he had 13 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks. Josh Hart only scored four points, but he played 46 minutes, 46 seconds and caught 12 boards and somehow seemed to be protecting about three Cavs at a time all night.

And Brunson, naturally, was Brunson (23 points, four assists).

“He never rushed, he never wavered, he was very balanced,” Hart said of his Knicksanova running mate. “He is able to control the game. That’s what you want from a point guard.”

Immanuel Quickly gets a hug from World Wide as Knicks president Leon Rose looks on.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

And this is what you want from a basketball team: one that peaks at precisely the right time, as this team has, one that walked into a Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse (where the Cavs lost just 10 games all year). year) and they stole Game 1. and then they bagged Game 5. They’re fearless, they’re selfless, and whoever they play from here, they’re going to put in an honest effort. It’s what they do. It’s who they are.

“We can play more basketball,” Brunson said.

They get to play more basketball. They get at least one or two more weeks of the season starting Sunday in the Garden against the equally hot Heat, and as a bonus, they were able to send Donovan Mitchell home much sooner than anyone expected.

Mitchell Robinson and Immanuel Quickly celebrate the Knicks’ series win.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“I had to be better than I was, and I wasn’t,” Mitchell said. “I did not do my job and I deserve the criticism that comes with it. I have to own that. I have to use that. All summer.”

All year, it looked like the Knicks would have to answer for Leon Rose’s decision not to bail out his assets, and maybe Barrett or Robinson as well, to make Mitchell a Knick. They responded for everything well. And now they can play more basketball.

Spike Lee celebrates the Knicks’ series win.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“New York is a mecca for basketball,” Toppin said. “So that we are in the second round…”

He didn’t finish the thought. She didn’t have to. There will be more basketball for the Knicks this spring, there will be more electric nights in the Garden like the two we had last Friday and last Sunday, throwback nights where it seemed like the crowd was trying to roar loud enough for 1994 to hear. . or 1973. They will also have more basketball.

New York gets more basketball. As a wise man once said: “Yes!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *