New York Jets invade metropolitan postseason proceedings

New York Jets, Joe Douglas

The New York Jets proved to be good luck charms for fellow metropolitan professionals competing in the weekend’s postseason fare.

The New York Jets need some help in toppling a New England-based opponent, having dropped ten consecutive contests against the Patriots. Fortunately, the team was able to do conduct some offseason research over the weekend.

The respective championship quests of both the Brooklyn Nets and New York Islanders enjoyed a bit of a boost with Jets players in attendance on Saturday night. Each team is in the second round of their league’s postseason proceedings and both of them have had to deal with opponents of Massachusetts origins.

Offensive representatives once again descended upon Nassau Coliseum to watch the Islanders’ 4-1 triumph over the Boston Bruins in Game 4 of the NHL’s East Division title series, knotting the best-of-seven series at two games apiece. Much like their prior visit to Uniondale, offensive lineman Dan Feeney stole the show by celebrating Islander goals by raucously finishing off his beer.

Feeney was joined by several of his new offensive teammates, including fellow metropolitan newcomers Zach Wilson and Michael Carter. The scorers were once again clad in customized Islander jerseys bearing the names and numerals they’ll wear on the gridiron.

The players appear to be far more effective talismans for an Islanders team seeking its first Stanley Cup hoist since 1983; head coach Robert Saleh took in Game 3 of the series on Thursday night, but Boston prevailed in a 2-1 overtime decision.

An hour away in Brooklyn, Joe Douglas was on the scene for the Nets’ second-round opener against the Milwaukee Bucks. The showdown against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co. was set up through a 4-1 series victory over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference’s quarterfinal round.

Jets/Nets fan @jaregss and his group were lucky enough to snap a photo with Douglas on their way out of the arena, with the Jets’ general manager clad in a shirt paying tribute to renowned wrestler Bret “Hitman” Hart. Many Nets fans, hungry for their first NBA title, were more than happy to welcome the Jets’ general manager to the cause.

Brooklyn dealt an appropriate blow to the Bucks in the first game of the series, as they overcame the medically-induced absence of James Harden to earn a 115-107 victory.

The Jets’ new friends both return to postseason action on Monday night. The Islanders ship back to Boston for a pivotal fifth game in the quarterfinal round (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) while the Nets look to take a two-game lead in the Borough of Churches (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Knicks want vaccinated crowd only for 2nd round if they advance

Get vaccinated or you can’t watch the second round of the NBA playoffs at The Garden.

That’s the clear message of the New York Knicks to their fans on Friday after Game 5 tickets were again sold out.

Tickets to the Knicks’ first playoffs in eight years have surged dramatically since New York allowed large crowd to attend indoor games.

The team’s final 22 regular-season home games were capped at 1,980 before it was increased to 15,000 for Game 1 of the playoffs.

The Knicks have split their first two home games, which drew the largest indoor crowds in New York since the pandemic.

Game 1 saw a sold-out 15,000 crowd rocking The Garden, and the Knicks decided to increase the vaccinated sections in Game 2 that attracted 16,254 fans. They are leaning towards filling up The Garden with its total capacity of 19,040 for the second-round home games should they advance past the Atlanta Hawks in their ongoing first-round series.

Games 3 and 4 will be played Friday and Sunday in Atlanta.

“The energy our Knicks fans have brought to the playoffs has been incredible — proving there’s nothing more exciting than Knicks basketball at The Garden. It’s moments like this that shows us what’s possible if everyone gets vaccinated — we’ll all be able to get back to doing what we love — and that definitely includes being together to cheer on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden,” said David Hopkinson, EVP, MSG Sports and President, Team Business Operations, said in a statement.

Fully vaccinated fans comprised 90 percent of the crowd that attended the first two games. Meanwhile, the remaining 10 percent were the socially distanced fans in the unvaccinated section where masks and negative antigen or PCR COVID-19 test were also required.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Jets HC Robert Saleh takes in NY Knicks playoff win

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh was among the joyful witnesses to another metropolitan squad’s big moment.

As the new head coach of the New York Jets, one of the first things Robert Saleh needs to learn is how to end a long drought of home playoff games. It’s been over 18 years since his new employers hosted an NFL postseason contest, the game in question coming in the AFC Wild Card round against Indianapolis at the late Giants Stadium.

Saleh did some de facto research on Wednesday night, taking in the New York Knicks’ playoff matchup against the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden. Game 2 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal series was just the second postseason game the Knicks had hosted since 2013. The new football boss was spotlighted on MSG’s video board during the first half and received a warm ovation.

It would appear that the Knicks remembered Saleh’s mantra of “All Gas, No Brake” during second half action on Wednesday. Trailing by 13 at the midway point, the Knicks erased Atlanta’s early lead and earned a 101-92 victory to even the first-round series at one win apiece. Derrick Rose led the way with 26 points off the bench for the Knicks, who are seeded four in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket.

In their celebration, New York sports fans gleefully took note that the Knicks are now undefeated when Saleh attends their playoff games. Peter Schrager of Fox Sports and NFL Network also caught a candid shot of Saleh enthusiastically reacting to a showstopping dunk from Knicks rookie Obi Toppin.

Saleh will have his own experiences against an Atlanta-based squad with an ornithological nickname later this fall, as his Jets will battle the Falcons in London on October 10.

After Wednesday’s euphoric events at MSG, the Knicks-Hawks series now shifts to Atlanta, with Game 3 in the best-of-seven set slated for Friday night (7 p.m. ET, MSG/ESPN).

Postseason visits from Jets representatives have appeared to bring good luck to the competing metropolitan squads. Over the weekend, members of the Jets’ revamped offense descended upon Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for the New York Islanders’ Stanley Cup Playoff triumph over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Islanders eliminated the Penguins on Wednesday night and will face the Boston Bruins in the second round of the NHL postseason.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags


Knicks: Thibodeau sticks with Payton as starter for Game 2

New York Knicks, Elfrid Payton

Embattled New York Knicks’ point guard Elfrid Payton will keep his starting job for Game 2.

Tom Thibodeu has decided to stay the course and will roll out the same starting unit against Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.

Young toyed around the Knicks’ backcourt in Game 1 scoring a game-high 32 points and handing out 10 assists in an auspicious playoff debut. The Hawks star guard scored the game winning floater with 0.9 seconds left steal one in New York, 107-105.

Payton’s minutes was further reduced as he went scoreless again in eight minutes, missing all his three attempts and was a plus/minus -2. He’s the one of the two Knicks’ guards who had a negative net rating. The other was Frank Ntilikina who played only 31 seconds and as Young’s defender in the final play.

“We looked at the game, we look at what’s going on. It’s a two-point game and it comes down to a loose ball. Just get out there, get the job done, play defense, run the team. We’re going to use everyone,” said Thibodeau before the game explaining his decision to stick with the same starting lineup.

Thibodeau was referring to Bogdan Bognadovic’s three-pointer that tied the game at 103 all with 55 seconds left. RJ Barrett initially swiped the ball but Bogdanovic gathered control as the Knicks’ wingman lost his balance. That shot set up Young’s heroics.

The Knicks have managed to take out Young’s three-point shot (1-of-3 in Game 1). But the cold-blooded guard went 11-for-23 from the floor and was 7-for-12 from close range.

Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young scored 32 points on a variety of floaters including the game winner against the New York Knicks in Game 1.

Thibodeau had a game plan that could have led to a Knicks’ victory in Game 1 as they neutralized Clint Capela’s lob threat. Capela wound up with only nine points on seven shots. Thibodeau’s calculated risk, however, backfired with Julius Randle playing one of his worst games and Bognadovic hitting the crucial 3 off a loose ball. Randle missed 17 of 23 shots for just 15 points, way below his average.  

And it didn’t help the Knicks’ guards were too relaxed on Young giving him enough space to operate inside.

Derrick Rose earlier said they’ll make it tougher for Young in Game 2.

“Well, I can say we played too relaxed. Tonight we’re just going to play our normal way of playing,” Rose said after today’s shootaround ahead of Game 2. Aggressive and playing smart. He’s a smart player. He knows how to use angles. We just got to make sure we stay into the ball and make things harder for him. Last game we didn’t do that.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Bucks beat Heat, give Knicks a shot at finishing as 4th seed

The New York Knicks hustled their way to get here, and Lady Luck smiled on them.

After outlasting the Charlotte Hornets in overtime, 118-109, earlier on Saturday, the Knicks needed a Miami Heat loss to stay in the hunt for a homecourt edge.

They got it with Jimmy Butler, a former Tom Thibodeau player sitting out due to lower back tightness, as the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Heat, 122-108.

Former Knick Bobby Portis scored 14 points off the bench while Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 21 in a rousing win that set up a dramatic Knicks-Celtics season finale at The Garden on a Sunday matinee.

The Knicks can clinch the fourth seed with a victory against the Celtics even if the Atlanta Hawks win over the league’s worst team, Houston Rockets.

New York holds the tiebreaker against Atlanta after the Knicks swept the Hawks in the regular season.

The Celtics will finish as the eighth seed no matter the outcome against the Knicks. Boston has already lost Jaylen Brown to a season-ending wrist injury, and they might opt to rest Jayson Tatum and Evan Fournier at the backend of a back-to-back schedule.

Tatum and Fournier started in Boston’s 124-108 win over Minnesota on Saturday.

With or without the Boston duo, the Knicks will go all out to secure their highest finish since they ended up as the second seed in the East during the 2012-13 season.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New lease on life at 40: Knicks zap Hornets in OT, stay alive for No.4

new york knicks, julius randle, reggie bullock

Julius Randle delivered his sixth triple-double of the season as the New York Knicks notched their 40th win and averted what could have been a disastrous collapse.

The Knicks squandered an 18-point lead but recovered just in time to beat the Charlotte Hornets, 118-109, in overtime to stay in the hunt for the precious fourth seed.

Now, the Knicks will keenly watch the Miami Heat-Milwaukee Bucks game later. A Heat loss will give the Knicks complete control of their destiny — beat the Jaylen Brown-less Boston Celtics tomorrow, and they end up as No. 4 with the homecourt edge in the first round of the playoffs.

Randle atoned for his offensive struggles late in the regulation by controlling the game in the extra five minutes. Playing decoy, Randle scored only two free throws but dished out five assists — the first two set up Alec Burks and Reggie Bullock for three-pointers that silenced the Hornets’ buzz.

“I thought he (Randle) and Alec had a good chemistry in that two-man game,” Tom Thibodeau said. “Their responsibility is to read the game. What they (Hornets) were doing — there was a switch, there was a double-team. And we think we can get good offense off that. Anytime we can get those two on the ball, just make the right read, get to your spacing. And it creates a lot of easy offense for us.”

Randle had 33 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists to move two games away from tying Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier’s record of most triple-doubles (8) in a single season in the franchise history.

Nerlens Noel anchored the Knicks’ tenacious defense with five blocks and two steals. He added eight points and 11 rebounds.

They held the Hornets to 38 percent from the field, with Charlotte’s prized rookie LaMelo Ball rendered ineffectively. Ball was 4-for-15 from the floor for only eight points and four assists.

With their defense sharp in the middle quarters, the Knicks grabbed an 18-point (48-30) in the second quarter and a 17-point lead (73-56) five minutes into the second half.

But Miles Bridges, who scored 30 points in his first game back from health and safety protocols, led a Hornets’ comeback. Bridges scored 16 in a 30-16 closing run by Charlotte to move within three at the end of the third quarter, 89-86.

The Hornets stepped on the gas and seized a four-point lead, 93-89, with a 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter. It was a nip-and-tuck affair from there.

Five straight points from Randle gave the Knicks a 104-101 lead with 4:34 left in regulation. Aside from a Terry Rozier split at the line to close the gap, 104-102, both teams couldn’t buy a basket down the stretch. Rozier broke the spell for both teams with the game-tying layup in the final 37.8 seconds.

Going for a 2-for-1 play, Randle missed a quick drive, and the Knicks dodged a bullet after the Hornets earned the last two possessions. Rozier missed a jumper, but Burks lost the ball out of bounce with 10.1 seconds left. Luckily for the Knicks, Devonte Graham missed a wide-open three sending the game into overtime.

Randle took over in overtime. He drilled two free throws then assisted on the Knicks’ next five shots to put the game beyond reach.

Bullock racked up 17 points with five threes while the Knicks’ bench countered Bridges and Graham’s 55-point output.

Derrick Rose returned from a one-game absence and scored 15 points while Burks added 14. Immanuel Quickley also stepped up with 13 points in 24 minutes.

RJ Barett struggled with his shot (9 points, 4-of-10 from the field). Barrett and Rose, curiously, sat out in the crucial moments of the fourth quarter and overtime.

Tom Thibodeau quickly allayed fears that they were hurt.

“Both guys are fine. It’s just the way the game was unfolding. We started off the third quarter really well and we hit a lull. We’re just trying to find a group that could go and that group (without Barrett and Rose) ended up doing well so we stayed with them longer. They’re fine and ready to go tomorrow.”

The Knicks will have everybody except Mitchell Robinson at the conclusion of their regular season against the Celtics tomorrow. A 20-win improvement from their 21-win total last season is at stake. And hopefully, a chance to grab the fourth seed.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Celtics’ loss gives Knicks free ride to playoffs

The New York Knicks are officially back in the NBA playoffs!

Thanks to Kevin Love’s best game of the season, the Knicks (38-31) got a free ride to the playoffs after the Cleveland Cavaliers dealt Boston Celtics a 102-94 loss.

Love pumped in 30 points and 14 rebounds, both season-highs, as the Knicks heaved a sigh of huge relief at their homes after a painful overtime loss to the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers last night.

It will be the Knicks’ first postseason appearance since Carmelo Anthony led them to the second round of the playoffs in the 2012-13 season.

Knicks’ All-Star forward Julius Randle immediately celebrated the franchise’s return to the playoffs on Twitter.

He’s right.

The Knicks still have plenty of work to do beginning tomorrow night’s matchup against the San Antonio Spurs. With three games left, the New York must sweep its remaining games and hope the Miami Heat (38-31) lose one game to grab the fourth seed in the East and a homecourt edge in the first round playoffs.

The Atlanta Hawks (39-31) momentarily sit as solo fourth after their come-from-behind victory against the Washington Wizards, 120-116, earlier. But the Knicks hold the tie-breaker with a 2-1 record over the Hawks if they wind up with the same record.

Meanwhile, Miami swept New York this season, giving the Heat the edge in case of a tie or even in a three-way tie with the Hawks. In this scenario, the Knicks will be the sixth seed. 

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo