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It’s not panic time yet for Knicks, but it’s getting close

Every night, every game, the Knicks receive huge consolation-level compliments. This time, Stan Van Gundy called TNT game courtside, calling them “amazing,” “inspirational,” and every imaginable “gritty,” “sly,” and “game” over and over Thursday night. It was described as a “derivative word.”

At no point could Van Gundy say they “won” or even “led” them against the Warriors. Golden State scored the first 14 points of the game to defeat the Knicks 110-99, and the trunk closed for good in February for the Knicks, who had lost eight of their 12 games that month.

March is the month that comes like a lion and goes like a lamb. For the Knicks, this stark dichotomy was born in February. They finished February as survivors while looking like favorites. On February 1, there was legitimate optimism that the Knicks might have the ability to rise to the No. 2 seed in the East. As of February 29, there was genuine concern whether they would miss the play-in.

Stephen Curry celebrated during the Knicks’ 110-99 loss to the Warriors. Jason Suzens, New York Post

Sure, there’s a good reason for everything that hit the Knicks in February, and there’s a reason why people like Van Gundy express such admiration for their courage and vitality. But the Knicks, starting with coach Tom Thibodeau, don’t want to hear any more.

Thibodeau upholds the oldest and most fundamental tenets of his profession.

“You coach the team you have, not the team you want.”

If Thibodeau could control these things, what would a Knicks team with Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, and Mitchell Robinson do against a Warriors team with all the important pieces except Andrew Wiggins? I would have liked to see what he would do. That’s the team he wants.

What he has, and what he seems destined to have for at least a few more weeks, fought and bled for him, but they simply refused to be blown away in the fourth quarter. He sneaked back into the game in the middle of the game. But when you have a short NBA schedule, there’s only so much you can do at the end of the day. It catches up with everyone. Caught up with the Knicks.

It’s now official to suspect that the Knicks’ peak season came in late January, when they defeated both players in back-to-back games in last year’s NBA Finals. However, it was at the end of the second game against the Heat that Randle’s shoulder exploded. When they reconvened in Charlotte a few days later, Anunoby was gone.

Jalen Brunson’s Knicks are in a much different position to start March
February, which seemed full of hope, is about to begin. Jason Suzens, New York Post
Tom Thibodeau reacted on the sideline in the second quarter when the Knicks lost. Jason Suzens, New York Post

They were doing so well at that point that they actually continued to win without them for a little while. However, since their loss to the Lakers on February 3, when they lost the lead in the second half, the Knicks are now 3-8. The dream of being a 2 seed has come to an end. They’re literally clinging to the No. 4 seed by fingernails — which looked like a worst-case scenario about 15 minutes ago. And there is one game in the loss column on the north side of the 8 slot.

Life comes at you quickly in the NBA.

It’s not the time to panic yet. But it’s almost time to start thinking about panic. That was Thursday’s biggest news: Anunoby is shooting again. It would be a good idea for Randle to return soon after that. As the playoffs begin, the Knicks could be at their healthiest at exactly the time they would normally like to be.

The question is, where will they be once the playoffs begin? Will a generous broadcaster describe the Knicks as “the team no one wants to play in the first round”? I mean that as a compliment, but it’s the last thing the team wants. Especially a team like the Knicks, who wanted more 15 minutes ago.

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