It was an oddly celebratory mood after a 119-112 win over the Lakers that left the Knicks tied for the third-worst record in the NBA (10-29). But maybe it was the scarcity of opportunities to celebrate that had the Knicks feeling good for a night.
“When we win, we celebrate like it’s a Super Bowl,” Fizdale said. “Why not?”
There were plenty of reasons not to celebrate — the place near the bottom of the standings and the fact that the Lakers team the Knicks beat was missing LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo. But it’s baby steps for the Knicks, and breaking an eight-game losing streak is as good a reason as any to smile for a night. Even the owner was smiling.
“He came in here and gave everybody dab like the coaching staff would do after a game,’’ Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “He brought it in with us. He was just happy how we competed on both ends of the floor and said, ‘Get the next one.’ ”
The Knicks did have one reason to celebrate. They had threatened to blow out the Lakers early, taking a 22-5 lead six minutes into the game after a flurry of three-point field goals. But they lost Frank Ntilikina to a strained tendon in his right ankle, an injury that leaves him day-to-day, and they lost the lead, too, falling behind in the fourth quarter — and won anyway.
With a strong defensive effort down the stretch from unlikely sources, the focus of Fizdale’s practice and shootaround in Los Angeles, the Knicks were able to survive. It doesn’t get easier, though, as they head to Portland and Golden State to finish off the six-game road trip.
“Well, you just hope that they understand, and I think our team at least gets that part, on the road, there is a certain way you got to play to give yourself a chance to win,” Fizdale said.
“For the most part, I feel like this year, being on the road has been better for us than being at home because it galvanizes us. It’s all we got. So obviously we got to figure out home a little bit better.
“I just feel like this team understands how to really just lock in when we go into a tough environment. Hopefully they can build some confidence from these last two and go up there and give it a game.”