If New York has, in its Yankees baseball team, the “winningest team in sports,” it may have, in its Knicks basketball team, the “losingest team in sports.” Or so I was told ahead of attending my first, professional basketball game last night.
New Yorkers are a critical home crowd. I’ve witnessed it at baseball games (particularly those Mets supporters!), ice hockey games (the Rangers have my sympathies) and during the first quarter of last night’s basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Normally playing at home is a “home team advantage”, but when the only welcome you get from the tens of thousands of fans in Madison Square Garden (a.k.a. “the Garden”) is a lukewarm reception, it makes one wonder if it isn’t doubly hard to play “at home.” At Mets baseball games, for example, Mets fans can be relied upon to deliver more hisses and boos at specific members of their own team than fans of the opposition. (Folks, don’t you think Matsui might stand a better chance of success if he thought anyone besides himself believed in his ability?)
Of course, such a loud and outspoken crowd can be relied upon to deliver the goods against the opposing team too. When that team has a basketball superstar like LeBron James as the Cavaliers do, the crowd booed with gusto at almost one of his every free throws, seemingly putting James off hitting his shots, which he otherwise seemed able to do with almost criminal ease during more pressured plays.
But give the crowd its due, at least the majority of the crowd which weren’t supporting the Cavalier, as there seemed to be a surprisingly large number of Cleveland fans in the house. LeBron received unanimous applause for every three-point shot.
At one point, after three, three-point shots in a row, this started to remind me of the almost too mechanical and too perfect and too dominant JJ Redick (a colleage basketball player who plays for Duke University). Or, for you South Africans/rugby fans out there, of the crazy days when Naas Botha could kick his team to victory almost every game.
However, this story has a happy ending. Despite having their worst season ever, despite their almost guaranteed habit of “coming apart in the last quarter,” the underdogs triumphed last night in a very exciting 96-94 win, clinched in the final 6.9 seconds of the game.
The highlight for me though, was the ten-minute half-time game between the Staten Island YMCA children’s team and the Brooklyn Dodge YMCA children’s team. It was incredibly absorbing, and at times amusing, to see these tweens losing and gaining possession of the ball with such frantic and serendipitous regularity. Plus there were some truly impressive points scored. (Unfortunately Stated Island seemed to be outclassed.)
The Dodge’s closing point guard displayed a love for a grand finale, and a lot of drama, as he positioned himeself, dribbled the ball until the last two seconds of the game were on the clock, and then scored! Methinks in a decade he might be playing with the big boys.