Derek Fisher (Bill Moore Knicks photo) (134134)

Monday night, immediately after the Knicks’ somewhat shocking 112-108 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on the road, this reporter received a ton of conflicting text messages from fans highly displeased with the game’s outcome.

“Why are the Knicks winning these games?” read one rhetorical message. “They’re hurting their chances to get the No. 1 pick.” Most of the text, some littered with much harsher language, angrily questioned the value of the Knicks winning games that, in their view, were meaningless and theoretically jeopardizing a guaranteed top three pick, which they would receive by finishing with the worst record in the NBA.

Coach Derek Fisher was acutely aware of the ironic anxiety much of the Knicks’ fan base was experiencing after the victory over the Hawks. “I’m sure people are upset with us,” he said. “But I don’t think you can ever go out there and basically try and not play your best.’”

The Knicks were 17-64 when they hosted the Detroit Pistons in their season finale last night (Wednesday) at the Garden, assuring them of one of the three worst records in the league, along with the Philadelphia 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves. The fans’ fear was that the Knicks would squander the highest probability to win the draft lottery.

Yet what would they think of Fisher and the players—some of whom will be back next season to constitute the bench—if they blatantly didn’t give an honest effort? That wasn’t the case. The team played with a sense of purpose to the end. That was little consolation to those with dreams of a dramatic turnaround by the Knicks, hoping Karl Anthony Towns of Kentucky or another teenager can do for the franchise what Patrick Ewing did 30 years ago when he became the first No. 1 pick of the lottery era.