"The Mecca Of Basketball" has been more like the Little Shop Of Horrors this season, with the New York Knicks dropping a team-record 18 straight games at Madison Square Garden entering Sunday's contest against the San Antonio Spurs.
But with an overall 18-game skid having been snapped on Thursday, the Knicks decided to address their home malaise next, earning a surprisingly comfortable 130-118 victory over the Spurs in which they led by as many as 23 and trailed for only a handful of possessions in the first quarter.
It was such a momentous occasion that Samuel L. Jackson gave Knicks superfan Spike Lee a head's up at the Oscars. Brie Larson could scarcely believe it!
The Knicks looked every bit like one of the league's worst teams in the opening moments as they gifted Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge with one of the easiest baskets he's ever "scored."
But if the Spurs expected the Knicks to keep presenting them with gifts, they were sorely mistaken.
With New York already up eight late in the first half, recently-acquired Dennis Smith Jr. served notice that his team had come to play by coming mere inches from banishing Spurs forward Dennis Bertans to another dimension with what would have been a strong candidate for Dunk of the Year.
It was a challenge the Spurs were unable to answer as New York led by at least eight throughout the second half.
Damyean Dotson led the way with 27 points and eight 3-pointers, and Smith, Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson all posted double-doubles. Smith's included 13 assists, including this beauty to Robinson that punctuated the Knicks' first home win since Dec. 1:
"Our guys needed to feel that at home," Knicks coach David Fizdale said. "The fans were amazing, and we got a lot of contributions. We still made a couple of mistakes ... but I'm really proud of how hard they competed."
Bottleneck in the West
In addition to the Spurs losing for the sixth time in seven outings, the LA Clippers suffered a 123-96 beating by the Denver Nuggets as the race for the final playoffs spots in the Western Conference got even tighter.
How tight, you ask? Just three games separate the fifth-place Houston Rockets and the Sacramento Kings in ninth, with the Utah Jazz, Spurs and Clippers sandwiched between them.
The Nuggets, meanwhile, continued to keep the heat on the Golden State Warriors, whose lead atop the West was sliced to a single game with two more meetings remaining on March 8 and April 2.
Over in the East, the first-place Milwaukee Bucks got a huge assist from the Orlando Magic, who took advantage of Kawhi Leonard's rest day to rout the Toronto Raptors 113-98.
While the Bucks lead the Raptors by only two games, their position is much stronger than it looks. In addition to having an additional game advantage in the loss column, they also hold the head-to-head tie-breaker. As if all that wasn't enough, they've also got the league's fourth-easiest schedule over their remaining 23 games.
There are worse ways to celebrate wins.
Backtracking to Saturday's 12-game slate, check out this tidbit:
Yesterday, 21 of the 24 NBA teams in action scored 110+ points, most on a single day all-time.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) February 24, 2019
There had never been more than 17 teams with 110+ points on any single day before yesterday.#STATSInsights
Little wonder the NBA is in the midst of its highest-scoring season, with a collective scoring average of 110.9 points per team per game, since 1970-71.