There have been more than few unexpected moments during this resorative Knicks season, but nothing comes close to what happened on Tuesday night.
The Knicks made the team with the best record in the NBA quit with three minutes to go in a 10-point game.
Gregg Popovich waved the white flag, cried uncle and said "No mas" after a fourth quarter push by the Knicks took all the fight out of his allegedly proud team. You can slough their decision off on the fact that they are playing Boston tonight or that Pop is willing to sacrifice a game in January for the larger battle, but those are just rationales designed to make less of the Knicks and less of the decision to give less then your best. We won't have that, not after Tuesday's 128-115 win.
Not when the Knicks were missing Danilo Gallinari against a team that had lost four games all season and had recently started playing defense commensurate with their lofty reputation. Not when those shorthanded Knicks forced the Spurs to play their game and made a mockery of their defense by making shot after shot en route to a 55 percent night from the floor. Not after they made the Garden roar as only the Garden can roar. And especially not when the Knicks ran them off the floor in the fourth quarter with a 14-6 run that led to Popovich's surrender.
The man of the match was surely Wilson Chandller, who scored 31 points on impossibly good 13-of-19 shooting from the floor, but the big two kept on churning for the Knicks. Raymond Felton and a surprisingly generous Amar'e Stoudemire combined for 56 points and 13 assists, while the bench trio of Toney Douglas, Bill Walker and Shawne Williams did some nice things to lessen the pain of Gallinari's absence.
That pain might be felt more acutely as the Knicks head out west for four toughies in the next eight days. As magnificent as Tuesday night was, it was still just one night in a long season. It's a nice change of pace, however, that the fact that it is a long season is now more of a pleasure than a threat.