You can tell how much New York is aching for a meaningful basketball team by the response to the team's back-to-back wins on Thursday and Friday against the Bulls and Wizards.
There was a discernible buzz around town about them. People were impressed by the way they moved the ball to find open shots that led to making half their shots both nights and astonished to see actual athleticism leading to blocked shots and turnovers on defense. Landry Fields and Raymond Felton were newcomers whose fan clubs were growing by leaps and bounds, while holdover Toney Douglas was revealing pockets in his game that made you wonder about the ceiling on his game. And everyone agreed that things would only get better once Amar'e Stoudemire found his footing.
It probably will, but Sunday's game against the Sixers was a splash of cold water on everyone who thought the worm had completely turned at Madison Square Garden. The offense got stagnant, the defense was foul-happy and the Knicks blew a good chance at a three-game winning streak by playing a lot more like the teams of the past than the one we spent most of the weekend deluding ourselves into thinking had arrived.
Boos actually came down at the end of the game, an unfortunate end to a week that was a lot more good than bad around the team. The reaction was understandable. The Knicks lost 106-96 to a Sixers team without Andre Iguodala after leading by nine points in the third quarter, and the Sixers aren't that good when Iguodala is in the lineup. Still, raining disgust on the court is a bit unrealistic given the bigger picture of what the Knicks are trying to do this season.
Like it or not, there are going to be days like this in the weeks and months to come. Days when shots don't fall, when defenders lose their feet too soon and when nothing Mike D'Antoni tries can stop that from happening. It's hard to watch, especially when you have an actual reason to believe that the Knicks should win games like this, but a little bit of perspective is going to go a long way over the next 76 games of this NBA season.
Two steps forward and one step back may not be pretty to watch, but it's still progress and that's all you can ask from the Knicks at this point in the season.