Knicks enjoying challenges against NBA’s best

Julius Randle Knicks
Knicks star Julius Randle
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks’ swoon continued on Monday night when they blew a 13-point second-half lead to the James Harden and Kevin Durant-less Brooklyn Nets, fueled by the 40 points of Kyrie Irving in a 114-112 loss.

For a team that had been surprising many, rising to as high as fifth in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks are back under .500 and have fallen to the No. 8 seed — which means they would be in a play-in tournament to get into the postseason.

It doesn’t get much easier for the Knicks. After just coming up short against one of the very best teams in the East, the Knicks travel to Boston to play the Celtics on Wednesday night. A win would catapult them back into seventh and put them right on the heels of the sixth-place Hornets. 

High-leverage games against some of the top teams in the league this late in the season is a change of pace for a Knicks team that is normally out of contention at this point of the season; something that is appreciated around Madison Square Garden.

“It’s extremely fun,” All-Star forward Julius Randle said. “You get up for these games being able to come every night and play for something. So it’s great. And it definitely brings a competitive edge [out] of you even more. It’s exciting. We just have to give ourselves a chance and come out with wins, honestly.”

For a young and developing team, it also provides some much-needed experience to establish some mettle that will come with potential, legitimate contention — even if it doesn’t come in 2021, or even 2022. 

“It’s been great,” second-year youngster RJ Barrett said. “Just being able to go out and compete with the best teams in the league and try to win games. It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of learning experiences. I look forward to many more.”