Back-to-backs are a staple of the NBA schedule and the youthful New York Knicks have an opportunity to learn how to fight through adversity.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK — The NBA schedule is a grueling affair and the 82-game season is no easy mountain to climb. No aspect of the schedule embodies the grueling nature more than the dreaded back-to-back games. The 2018-19 New York Knicks will experience their second back-to-back of the season on Monday night and it’s another opportunity for growth for the youthful squad.
The first weekend of the season the Knicks were popped in the mouth with a back-to-back featuring the Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics. It was an early education for David Fizdale and his young squad and despite coming up winless in the pair of games, we learned a lot about the makeup of this team.
The crosstown rivalry with the Brooklyn Nets is beginning to heat up as Kristian Winfield of SB Nation illustrates. The first installment of a four-part series this season ended in heartbreak for the Knicks. Caris LeVert’s late bucket against his former college teammate, Tim Hardaway Jr., sent the Knicks back across the Brooklyn Bridge with their first loss of the season.
The loss wasn’t all that concerning, but how they responded to the last second loss was the true test. A test they passed. Maybe not with flying colors because they lost, but there was more to it than the 103-101 loss to the Boston Celtics. After a slow start and an ugly Kevin Knox injury, the prospect of a blowout loss loomed.
But rather than wilting at the hands of an Eastern Conference contender, Damyean Dotson and the youthful Knicks battled back towards the end of the second quarter and forced the Celtics to earn the victory. Of course, their late-game execution left something to be desired, but the desire to compete was on full display.
Fizdale saw the heart from his team despite the tough losses. The term “moral victory” is usually seen as a bad thing in professional sports, but given where the Knicks are in their development, it’s a-ok to glean positives from losses. After the loss, Fizdale was upbeat when speaking to reporters.
“The locker room was fantastic going in,” Fizdale said of the mood in the locker room after the game. “There was no moral victory, but all of them was just like, ‘Let’s keep our heads down and keep chopping the tree. Don’t get down. Let’s come back to work tomorrow and let’s get better.'”
I know he prefaces things by saying there was no moral victory, but it does sound like there were elements of a moral victory front and center in his effusive praise of his team.
Fast forward to Monday night and the Knicks are once again trying to bounce back from a loss the very next night. They fell to the Wizards in Washington on Sunday after hanging tough for most of the game. A late surge from the floundering Wizards put the game away late.
But of course, it’s silly to get caught up in wins and losses. This season is about growth and in a strange way, the loss gives the Knicks more of an opportunity to learn something about themselves.
They welcome the lowly Chicago Bulls into Madison Square Garden. Much like the Knicks, the Bulls are rebuilding with young talent and focusing on development over wins and losses. Chicago is playing in their third game in four nights so the Knicks have no excuses.
Of course, a loss wouldn’t be mean the sky is falling. The Knicks have 11 more back-to-backs this season so they’ll have ample opportunity to get a feel for this scheduling inevitability. But a win would provide some tangible proof that there is improvement happening.
After all, this season is about developing the young corps into a winning roster that can contend in the playoffs. Learning how to navigate the intricacies of an 82-game season is necessary to reach the end goal.