HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Next time you’ll listen when Amar’e Stoudemire tells you the Knicks are not afraid of the Miami Heat.
The Knicks showed no fear at Madison Square Garden in battling from behind and then out playing the Heat down the stretch on TNT last night. It was the sort of performance that exposes all the reasons why these Knicks, with a key addition (Carmelo Anthony) here or there, could be trouble for the rest of the Eastern Conference come playoff time and beyond.
When people try to simplify this win for the Knicks by pointing out that Mario Chalmers missed a wide open shot that could have tied the game in the final seconds and that the Knicks just took care of business late, they are doing a disservice to the home team.
The Knicks snatched this game, using that 17-8 fourth-quarter surge to turn back Dwyane Wade and LeBron James at crunch time. Those four straight 3-pointers during the run, two each from Danilo Gallinari and Landry Fields, proved to be the difference as the Knicks doubled the Heat’s fourth quarter production.
Predictably, many of those that witnessed the game in person made it about James, his off night and the fact that he didn’t help Wade finish, Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News:
Meet LeBron, mortal.
This was James as Garden fans have never seen him before.
While Dwyane Wade wore goggles, James seemed to be playing with a blindfold on as the Knicks posted a surprising 93-88 victory Thursday night.
James was never this bad when his old buddy out in Cleveland, Dan Gilbert, accused him of tanking Cavalier playoff games.
Here was LeBron’s line: 24 points on 7-of-24 shooting.
“I missed 10 or 12 layups and I made some difficult shots,” James said. “That’s when you know it’s one of those games, when you make hard ones and miss the easy ones.”
We never remember Michael Jordan uttering those words as he was leaving New York.
But that’s not what made the biggest impression on us after this game. This was about Stoudemire making good on his claim that the Knicks, a solid but not great team filled with young talent that is still evolving, would not back down.
It was about these youngsters, Fields and Gallo, refusing to step aside for the hype and the Heat. And it was about Stoudemire solidifying his reputation as the head Knick in charge. He got the big win on the same night he was became the Knicks’ first All-Star starter since Patrick Ewing in 1992.
This is what Spike Lee and all those Knicks loyalists have been waiting for — a reason to believe in their team, a star to carry the mantle of a proud franchise that has spent the last decade in limbo.
It probably looks like baby steps to some of you.
But we see something more than that. The Knicks just might be on to something big, something that has the potential to get a whole lot bigger in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.
You’ve got to take the baby steps first. And the Knicks are getting those out of the way right now.