A loss on Friday night would have effectively ended the New York Knicks season and sent them spiraling even deeper down into the pits of basketball mediocrity. But the Knicks displayed an admirable combination of resilience and effective play and triumphed over the Toronto Raptors by the score of 108-100, meaning that the Knicks will continue to play meaningful basketball this season.
Had the Atlanta Hawks lost to the Brooklyn Nets the same night, instead of beating the Knicks' rival 93-88, the victory would have been even more meaningful for the Knicks, but the Knicks can only control their own actions and hope those are enough to send them on a playoff excursion. No matter how the season shakes out, though, the Knicks should be proud of their effort on Friday and also a little furious at themselves for not putting in similar performances all throughout the season.
For most of the year, the Knicks have struggled to close out games, losing a plethora of tightly contested outcomes in the fourth quarter and overtime. On Friday, however, the Knicks proved that they are capable of closing out a game, even if they have to make it more difficult on themselves in typical Knicks fashion.
The game was a single possession one entering the fourth quarter until the Knicks slowly separated themselves from their opponent, using a 16-7 run to give themselves an eleven-point edge with 4:03 remaining in the game to give them their first real breathing room of the contest. With a seemingly commanding lead, all the Knicks really had to do was to maintain the hard work they had already put in.
Then Iman Shumpert, who almost ruined his very positive contributions, happened as he almost single-handedly kept the Raptors in the game by committing a few inexplicable fouls and sending DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to the free throw line. DeRozan and Lowry converted on their three free throw attempts and with 31 seconds remaining, the Raptors had closed the gap to just four points.
Since it is the Knicks, who have turned blowing leads into an art form, it seemed probable that the Raptors would cap off a comeback and walk away with a win, but the Knicks were able to rally enough in the waning seconds of the contest to make six straight free throws and cement their latest victory.
Even after the win, the Knicks trail the Atlanta Hawks by two games with three games to play so they will have to continue their tightrope act for the rest of the season. There is no margin of error for the team, and they must win their last three games in the same, or more impressive, fashion as they did on Friday.