Even if you knew, deep down, that there was no way Amar'e Stoudemire could catch, set and shoot in four-tenths of a second, you let yourself explode with joy when his three-pointer splashed through the net at the end of Wednesday night's game.
It was that kind of night at Madison Square Garden. It was a night where you believed anything was possible, even a Trent Tucker-type ending to a game that once and for all settled the question of whether or not the Knicks were back. They are and a generation of basketball fans got their first look at what basketball is supposed to be on 33rd Street during the 118-116 Celtics win.
It's supposed to look like the Knicks and Celtics trading haymakers across a classic fourth quarter. It's supposed to sound like 19,763 groaning as one when Paul Pierce gets another bailout call and rising as one when Danilo Gallinari rediscovers his game during the second half. It's supposed to feel like the only place on Earth that's worth a damn. And, unfortunately, some nights it is supposed to be stunned into silence when Pierce finds himself one-on-one with Stoudemire, stepping back and slipping a dagger into the Knicks' chest.
That result stings, as it should, but the pain is dulled by what was on display in the Garden on Wednesday night. You could feel the ghosts of the past, the memories of Clyde, Ewing and the rest, banging on the doors to get out and run wild and it felt like all was finally right in the little corner of the world inhabited by the Knicks.
It isn't quite that easy, of course. All the good feelings generated last night don't make the fact that they lost any better. There are no moral victories in professional sports, not when you lead for most of the night on your own floor and watch Stoudemire -- brilliant again with 39 points -- miss a bunny just before Pierce's dagger. The schedule is about to get incredibly difficult and the heady days of the eight-game winning streak may soon seem like a distant memory.
But, to bastardize "Braveheart" for a moment, all winning streaks must die but not all winning streaks truly live. The Knicks have lived large over the last eight wins and over the 13 wins in 14 games leading up to Wednesday night. Getting too upset about a step back would be like yelling at a baby for not running a mile the day after it takes its first steps.
Ten years don't go away in the blink of an eye, although it sure would have felt like it with one-tenth of a second more to play with on Wednesday.