There isn’t much the Knicks have given their fans this season with the exception of frustration and disappointment. However, in the season’s final days, at least for them, the Knicks can give their fans the gift of playing with pride as they did Tuesday night in defeating the Chicago Bulls by 100-91.
It was one of their better collective efforts this season on both sides of the court. With starting forward Kristaps Porzingis out with a sore lower back, seldom used forward Maurice Ndour had a career night, scoring 13 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in 33 minutes to help the Knicks earn their 30th win of the season.
“He’s a guy that can play a role on our team,” said Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek in his postgame gathering with the media. “We don’t need him to score. What we need is exactly what we saw tonight, the hustle, the getting after it, the scrambling… I tend to think at some point all these guys can play like that.”
Yet Ndour’s and the Knicks’ inspiring performance cannot erase the agony of 48 losses with four games remaining, including tonight’s against the Washington Wizards at the Garden. It’s victories such as Tuesday’s versus the Bulls, who were without Dwayne Wade as he continues to recover from a fractured right elbow, and last Friday’s 98-94 win versus the Heat in Miami, two teams fighting for playoff spots, that elicit thoughts of could-have and should-have when deconstructing the Knicks’ season.
On face value, there is a small talent gap between the Knicks, Bulls and the Heat but a wide chasm that separates them in the standings. When the NBA schedule tipped-off last night, the Bulls were 38-40 as were the Indian Pacers, both tenuously holding on to the final two playoff positions in the Eastern Conference, while the Heat were 37-40 and in the ninth spot, a half a game behind both. Conversely, the Knicks were eight games out of the eighth seed.
So all that’s really left for the organization and the fans is to determine which young guys should be a part of their future plans and give the fans the gift of pride by playing with passion and purpose over the next week. Hornacek should give the bulk of the minutes to hungry youngsters like Ron Baker, who shows improvement with each succeeding game and displays a voracious appetite for defense, which the Knicks have patently lacked, it being the crux of their downfall. Ndour, the 24-year-old native of Senegal who played college basketball at Ohio University, should also be allocated quality minutes. Knicks’ fans fortunate enough to attend a game or more at the Garden and those taking in games via radio, television or streaming, have been loyal and fervent through what is now four straight seasons of their team missing the postseason. The organization must now execute a plan to reciprocate in-kind and pay back their support.