There's this weird thing in sports that almost everyone does where they preface describing something as a moral victory by insisting that there's no such thing as a moral victory only to then completely contradict the preface. Which is to say, you always want to win, but there are absolutely losses where positives can be drawn, I'm not sure why we continue to insist otherwise.
As it goes, I don't really think Sunday's loss to the Heat was one of those times.
Were there positives? Absolutely. The second quarter might have been the best quarter this team has played in about a month, with the early-season ball movement on full display, Jason Kidd pinging the ball around in the savant fashion we hadn't seen in many moons and the accompanying open outside looks all going down. So that was all well and good and wonderful to behold. For a while.
Interestingly enough, had you asked me before the game, I wouldn't have called yesterday's tilt a must-win at all. I simply wanted the Knicks to play well. That was the bar. Facing a streaking Heat team playing the best basketball in the sport, I didn't need to see a Knicks team that's hovered around .500 for the past couple months win the game, but they had to be competitive.
So mission accomplished, right?
Well, the calculus kind of changes when you race out to a 16-point lead and look as though you're ready to run them out of the gym before halftime. Once that happens, you have to bring the game home.
Because instead it became almost more demoralizing to watch the Knicks play that well and still lose. The Heat withstood their run, made the appropriate adjustments and just gradually wore New York down after halftime. If you entered Sunday wondering if we could really beat those guys, it was hard to exit with much confidence that the answer is yes.
There's almost a cruel, cosmic irony that the best teams New York fielded since their championship heyday had to annually try and run through Michael Jordan, and now having finally once again put together a competent team, they look up and see another once-in-a-generation force standing firmly in their way.
Or in other words, I expect the ensuing years will bring a fairly large pile of LeBron-inspired broken remotes, as we see what happened play out Sunday become something of a yearly ritual.
I think I need a drink.