Seeing Another Day: What Sunday's Win Means for the Garden Fanbase

Steven GoldsteinContributor IMay 7, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 06:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks reacts after the Knicks won 89-87 against the Miami Heat in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 6, 2012 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

It wasn't pretty. It wasn't easy. But it happened.

For the first time in over a decade, the New York Knicks won a playoff game.

True, much of the fervor is masked by the fact that the Knicks still trail Miami three games to one in their first-round series, and injuries to guards Jeremy Lin, Baron Davis and Iman Shumpert certainly don't help matters. But hey, in a sporting world that revolves on a records-based axis, Sunday's win counts for something.

Knicks fans have been grudgingly acquainted with futility for years now. Breaking an NBA-worst 13 playoff game losing streak is a step in the right direction, or at bare minimum, the bandage to stop the bleeding.

Wins like these are somewhat paradoxical: Fans revel in celebration, but are also reminded of what could have been.

The Knicks did everything right on Sunday afternoon. They rebounded, as evidenced by their 43-40 margin on the boards. They guarded the perimeter, as seen by the Heat's paltry 15.8 percent from behind the arc. And they certainly had a flair for the dramatic, with Carmelo Anthony's go-ahead three forever embedded in the mosaic of Big Apple basketball.

But the Knicks still find themselves in a hole, and fans are reluctantly forced to wonder how different the series could have been with a more consistent Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire and a healthy point guard core.

Had New York lived up to its potential and fired on all cylinders during the regular season, perhaps it wouldn't be facing a formidable Heat team.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 06:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks loses the ball as he drives against LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 6, 2012 at Madison Square Garden i
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

In other markets, Sunday's W comes as pure, no-strings-attached success. But in the city that never sleeps, nothing is absolute.

I've been a Knicks fan since I was six years old. I can rehash the story of Larry Johnson's four-point play like it was yesterday; I unsuccessfully attempted to break my father's TV screen after Reggie Miller flashed the choke sign to Spike Lee; David Lee's buzzer-beating catch-and-shoot still shines brightly in an otherwise gloomy mist of blue-and-orange disparity (known formally as the Isaiah Thomas era).

Naturally, I'm as excited about Sunday's win as anyone else. But I can't help but notice that my celebration is somewhat hollow.

Ultimately, Sunday's win isn't so much an achievement or a classic moment, as it is a preview for what the Knicks can—and very well may—do in 2012-13 and beyond.

The burden of a year of media controversy, inconsistency, injuries and ever-shifting personnel is finally in the rear-view mirror. Swept away is the mess of the Mike D'Antoni regime and the mid-January slump. This is closure in its purest form. For passionate fans like myself, closure isn't necessarily fun. Closure isn't an exciting postseason run; closure doesn't bring the Finals back to the Garden. But it's still something tangible after countless seasons of nothing to show for.

The present-tense implications of Sunday are minuscule: Chances are, LeBron James and company will finish off the Knicks by Game 6 at the absolute latest.

Sunday is more about release and relief than anything else. A painful losing streak has finally come to an end, and Knicks fans have been given a nice teaser for next season. It isn't much, but it's an undeniable step forward, and a sign that Madison Square Garden's worst days are behind it.