How loud was it?
“Loudest place in the league to play,” J.R. Smith said.
How important was it?
“That was a major step forward for our team,” Mike Woodson said.
How intense was it?
“I’ve never played in an NBA playoff game,” Chris Copeland said, “but I can’t imagine basketball being played any harder than the way it was today.”
It’s too late in the game for the Knicks to start throwing out platitudes, so they don’t even bother anymore. After spending two months of the season defending a terrific record, then 2 1/2 months trying to explain away a mediocre record, they are basking in what they’re doing now.
They are enjoying every second of this winning streak, which somehow reached an even dozen yesterday when they walked into Chesapeake Energy Arena, the House of Horrors the Oklahoma City Thunder call home, and outgunned the defending Western Conference champs 125-120. They are delighted with the fact that their magic number to clinch the Atlantic Division now sits at 1.
And they are excited — and why shouldn’t they be? — they are playing their very best basketball at precisely the point you want to be, with the regular season in the home stretch, with the playoffs well in sight, with every game soon to feel exactly as yesterday’s felt from opening tip to final buzzer.
“We were always convinced we were a good team,” said Carmelo Anthony, who won his personal duel with Kevin Durant in points (36-27) and rebounds (12-3) and, of course, on the scoreboard. “We can’t worry about what people think. A win is a win.”
Every step the Knicks have taken this year, even the positive ones — especially the positive ones — there have been skeptics and cynics awaiting them, carrying buckets filled with asterisks and justifications. Maybe it’s destined to be that way until they experience some postseason success, and maybe it’s supposed to be that way.
How loud was it?