At the start of the season, the Knicks were picked by essentially no one to advance to the playoffs. Analysts set the bar as low as possible. Even fans couldn’t have expected much.
In that way, the Knicks were the darlings of this postseason — at least for as long as they were still alive.
It ended Wednesday night with New York’s 103-89 series-sealing loss to the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5. No, the early exit did nothing to erase how unexpectedly stellar a regular season it was for the Knicks. But it certainly wasn’t the way they wanted to go out.
Just ask Spike Lee.
Reggie Miller Takes a Shot at Spike Lee
Lee, the Oscar-winning director and Knicks superfan, sat courtside for the entire series, including each game at Madison Square Garden and each at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The Knicks season-ticket holder is a fixture at his team’s games.
But with just over three minutes left Wednesday’s game and the Knicks trailing by 16 points, Lee appeared to leave early, a backpack strewn across his shoulder as he made his way through the tunnel at Madison Square Garden.
On the TNT broadcast of the game, play-by-play announcer Marv Albert and color analyst Reggie Miller were incredulous.
“Oh, Spike’s leaving early! Wait a second,” Albert said.
And then Miller began taking some playful jabs at a fan he’s got some history with.
“Come on, man! That’s a fair weather fan right there,” Miller said. “If he’s supposed to be the No. 1 supporter of the Knicks, you got to stay here and take it like the guys on the floor. Come on, man.”
Miller didn’t let up from there, saying Lee should know better than to leave a game early at the Garden, where special things happen.
Not long after, Lee returned to his seat. Was it just a bathroom break? Or, as Miller hypothesized, did Lee hear what his old rival was saying about him on the TNT broadcast? Either way, leaving wasn’t a good look for the 64-year-old director, but at least he was there to give the 2020-21 Knicks one last round of applause with the rest of the Garden as time expired.
Tom Thibodeau Weighs in on Knicks’ 2020-21 Campaign
The Knicks finished the shortened regular season with a 41-31 record, earning the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the first round.
They exceeded expectations. Then they went out with a whimper.
“We’re proud of what we did,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said, via Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, “but we know we still have a long way to go.”
Meanwhile, Hawks star Trae Young, who dropped 36 points on Wednesday to conclude a fantastic series on a personal level, explained why he took a bow toward the end of Game 5 in New York.
“I know where we are,” Young said, via SNY. “I know it’s a bunch of shows around this city. And I know what they do when the show is over.”