Tied at 49-49 with a minute left in the second quarter, Memphis scored the last five points of the first half. This mini-run catapulted them into a strong third quarter, where they outscored New York 31-18. The Knicks lost their composure after halftime by seeming more concerned with the officials calls, most of which went against them, than actually trying to stay competitive with their opponent.
Friday night's loss, though painful to watch for Knicks fans, is ultimately a good thing for this team in the long run. One of the two Knicks players with a championship ring, Jason Kidd, agrees with this opinion based on the following quote, courtesy of the New York Daily News, after his team's first defeat of the season: "Emotion is part of the game. This is a test that we can learn from. We’ll just chalk this one up and remember what to do if we’re ever in this situation again."
Winning a championship in the NBA means overcoming adversity. The first test the Knicks faced in this young season came on Thursday night in San Antonio when they fell behind by 12 points to the Spurs midway through the fourth quarter. New York's first bout with adversity was a success, as they blew by San Antonio over the last seven minutes of the game for a 104-100 win.
The next test will be how this team responds to its first loss. This will be answered Sunday at noon when the Knicks return home to face the Indiana Pacers.
At some point, they will go on a losing streak, suffer a significant injury to a key player (Amare' Stoudemire's current knee injury doesn't count since it came during training camp, and his absence may actually be a good thing) and hit the lull that naturally comes during the long NBA season.
They will also have to overcome these challenges with a host of new players, which is a challenge in and of itself. The good thing is that many of the players the Knicks added are veterans who have gone through adversity with different teams before and were largely succeeded.
How the Knicks respond to these different challenges will determine what this team is capable of in 2012-13.
The Knicks are good. They are definitely a playoff team and probably one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. If they want to become a true championship contender, though, they will need to respond when the chips are down.