The Knicks have been as streaky and unpredictable as any NBA team all season, and the last week of games certainly underscored those traits.
As Julius Randle noted one week ago — following a gritty overtime win in Boston against the league-best Celtics — the Knicks “can beat anybody and can lose to anybody.”
After not winning or losing more than three straight games over their 10-13 start through Dec. 3, the Knicks had a 25-game stretch in which 24 of their results were grouped into, in order, an eight-game winning streak, a five-game losing streak, a three-game winning streak, a four-game winning streak and a four-game losing streak.
Over their past five games, entering a visit to the Garden by the Clippers on Saturday, they have defeated the Cavaliers and the Celtics. They’ve lost to a depleted Nets team that otherwise has gone 3-7 without injured star Kevin Durant. They also lost in overtime to the sub-.500 Lakers, before defeating the surging Heat, while playing without starters Jalen Brunson and Mitchell Robinson.
The Knicks led Miami by 14 points in the first half and by 11 with barely seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter before holding on for a two-point win following Tyler Herro’s missed 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
“That’s a normal game, there’s going to be swings. And it’s really how you respond,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeauu said after the win Thursday. “You come into a game and we have two starters out, they’re playing really well. After watching the Laker film I thought we played a really good game. Now bounce back, be ready for this one.”
Indeed, pulling out the win over the Heat after blowing a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter at Boston and also winning at least represents progress for a team that already had lost several games in which it led by at least 10 points this season.
Those included a 23-point collapse against the Hawks in November, a squandered 17-point cushion in a home loss to the Bucks in January, and the late December game in Dallas in which they blew a nine-point lead with 33 seconds left in regulation and lost in overtime to Luka Doncic (60 points) and the Mavericks.
The increased dependence on 3-point shooting across the league has prompted Thibodeau to often say that no lead is safe.
“You have to do enough good things to win the game. We didn’t do enough in the Laker game but we did [Thursday],” Thibodeau said. “And then, the challenge is OK, get ready for the next game. We’ve got the Clippers coming up. But never get too high, never get too low. Just concentrate on the next play, what’s in front of you and approach it that way. I want us to build the right habits each and every day.”