Both the Knicks’ and Nets’ hearts were heavy on Sunday evening with the loss of NBA great Kobe Bryant fresh on their minds in New York’s win.
Basketball should not have been played tonight. No one cared about basketball today.
Madison Square Garden was lit up purple and gold. There were Lakers jerseys in every direction. This may have been a game between the Brooklyn Nets (19-26) and New York Knicks (13-34), but everyone’s minds were on Los Angeles and their fallen icon, Kobe Bean Bryant, who tragically passed earlier today, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
Before the game was underway there was a run off of the shot clock during a moment of silence. Each team started with back-to-back 24-second violations as a salute to the Black Mamba, No. 24.
The Knicks and Nets both took a 24 second shot clock violation on their first possessions to pay respect to Kobe Bryant. pic.twitter.com/vTffV2xceQ— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) January 26, 2020
Cheers of “Kobe” rang out throughout the arena. It would be the loudest the Garden would get on a somber night. Everybody—the commentary, the players, to even the fans—felt like their thoughts were elsewhere. We all wanted to mourn.
Mike Breen with an emotional, moving tribute to Kobe at the start of the Knicks-Nets game… pic.twitter.com/EELyCDyNcy— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) January 26, 2020
The Knicks & Nets observing a 24 second moment of silence for Kobe Bryant. pic.twitter.com/J6MKyZMIgN— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) January 26, 2020
Knicks Marcus Morris and Julius Randle each had messages for Kobe Bryant on their shoes. Randle was a former Lakers teammate of Bryant's for two seasons. His shoes read: "GOAT 24 Rest Easy Bro" pic.twitter.com/AZDtTtU817— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) January 26, 2020
It was a back-and-forth first quarter that included nine lead changes. A highlight reel alley from Kevin Knox to Mitchell Robinson gave the Knicks a slight 30-28 edge after one.
Mitchell Robinson poster over Nic Claxton pic.twitter.com/kroJ57x4eW— Reid Goldsmith (@reidgoldsmith) January 26, 2020
Hot shooting carried the Knicks in the first half. As a team they shot 65.5% well into the second quarter and finished the half shooting 57.5% as New York took a 55-52 lead at the half. Marcus Morris led the way with 10 points, but it was a true group effort with every player scoring at least one basket.
Thankfully, the second half felt like a blur. The officials let both teams play, as each party seemed to agree they wanted to get in and out as fast as possible. The Knicks briefly fell behind by four before regaining the lead thanks to timely buckets by Morris and even third-year gurd Frank Ntilikina. The lead heading into the final frame ballooned to nine points.
Julius Randle, who played with Bryant in L.A., helped put the game out of reach for good. He started with a nice blow-by dunk, and the Knicks never looked back. Randle and Morris led the way with 22 and 21 points, respectively. Robinson was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field but did foul out. The Knicks split their season series with the Nets, winning 110-97.
The night ended as it began, however, with the Garden faithful chanting the name of one of the best opponents the Knicks will ever face: Kobe.
The Knicks turn their attention to facing the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday in North Carolina.