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This was after another dramatic victory in a surprising season now full of them, a come-from-behind overtime win over the Hawks that pushed the Knicks into the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
A group of exuberant Knicks fans were going nuts at Penn Plaza, jumping up and down, celebrating as if the Knicks had just won the NBA Finals.
“Four-seed baby,” one fan yelled in the social media video that went viral. Others held up four fingers as they hopped along in jubilation following the orange and blue’s eighth straight victory.
“It’s a buzz in the city right now,” Derrick Rose said. “There’s nothing but good vibrations going on right now.”
This feeling of elation surrounding a team that hasn’t reached the playoffs in eight years isn’t just taking place at the Garden, either. Rose has felt it just walking around the city. The energy is different. There is an excitement about the Knicks that hasn’t been felt in years. The other day, Julius Randle was in Manhattan and was approached by several fans. They thanked him for the season he’s having and congratulated him on the team’s success.
“They’re thankful, honestly, and it’s a crazy feeling that you have as a basketball team or a player that you have that much impact on peoples’ daily happiness, because they care about Knicks basketball so much,” Randle said on ESPN’s “The Woj Pod.”
After the win over the Hawks, Randle told the crowd, “New York, we here.” They aren’t alone. The franchise’s long-suffering fans have been a big part of this stunning run.
Since Feb. 23, when fans were first allowed to return to attend games at the Garden, the Knicks have won 12 of 16 contests at MSG, including the last six straight. That includes victories over potential playoff teams such as the Lakers, Hawks, Pacers, Hornets and Grizzlies. The Knicks are an impressive 20-10 at home this year. There is an energy in the building, according to Randle, that makes it seem like the Garden is filled at much more than 10 percent capacity.
“I think it helps us tremendously. When you have only 2,000 fans in there, but it feels like there is 18 or 19,000, it says a lot,” Rose said. “Even when there is a dead ball, you hear a few of them chirping at the ref when it’s a bad call. You’re never by yourself when you’re on the court.
“Like I always say, these fans are different. They actually know the game, so whatever you’re thinking in your head, they are saying to the ref a little bit more crazy. It kind of makes you feel good that you’re not the only one out there thinking it.”
If the Knicks can maintain their hold on the fourth seed, it would earn them an extra home game in the opening round of the playoffs, clearly an advantage.
The first round of the playoffs is set to begin May 22, with the play-in rounds (the Nos. 7-10 seeds in each conference battling for the last two playoff spots) starting on May 18.
The Garden should be even louder by then.
On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that large indoor arenas in New York can expand to 25 percent capacity starting May 19. That would mean just under 5,000 at the Garden, more than double the current crowds. It may not be 20,000, but as the Knicks have already shown, even a diminished percentage of fans can make a difference.
“I know all the guys are [excited] to feel that energy to actually seeing more fans in the crowd,” Rose said.
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