LeBron vs. Knicks has always been fun, but becoming a rivalry makes it even better
James really wanted to beat the Knicks Monday night, while trolling MSG fans along the way
It's rare to see players like LeBron James show an actual interest in beating another team in November. Yes, the Knicks and Madison Square Garden have always been a place for James to put on a show. He loves to put on a performance in MSG. It's what he does.
However, James is long past showing a desire to win these early November games. He's never admitted it, but anybody that has watched James and the Cavaliers play the last few seasons know the goal is to play in June. That means sacrifice and conserving energy in November.
Everything from this point on changed. This random November matchup, that wasn't even on national TV, had become something so much more meaningful. New York responded with an 11-0 run. Dwyane Wade picked up a tech. James showed outward annoyance at Cleveland's lack of effort. Eventually, the Cavs were down 23 and it felt like the Knicks had come out on top. They had won the scuffle.
Then James took over. Kyle Korver got the Cavs close with some hot 3-point shooting and then James took over from there. Defensively he put himself on Kristaps Porzingis and completely shut him down. New York tried posting him up and James swallowed him. However, it's one thing to merely force a comeback. It's the way James carried himself throughout -- and after -- that really established this as a rivalry.
Now, rivalries don't have to necessarily make sense. It's not always two playoff teams or contenders. Often they are sparked by something minuscule. NBA's best player and in the process. However, for a rivalry to truly matter both sides have to care. James will probably never admit it publicly, but he cared Monday night.. An . The
James took his chance during another moment at the Garden and ran with it, by flexing his muscles at the end of a fastbreak. He knew what was about to happen and he was ready to push it through. He played to the arena like a conductor egging them on throughout the game.
Which just made everything so much better.
Madison Square Garden is still the NBA's best event venue and the atmosphere in there against Cleveland was incredible. It was loud, intense, and the fans booed James anytime he touched the ball -- all in support of Ntilikina, Kanter, and a rising Knicks team. James vs. the Knicks has always been a part of the NBA, but it's so rarely felt like this before.
LeBron saved his best for late with a dagger that sealed it -- another pivotal moment for James in MSG. He squared up against Porzingis, the next big thing in New York, and hit a 3-pointer right in his face. It was nasty. It was awesome. It was fun.
James so obviously wanted that win. When he enters these moments of hero ball, all in an effort to crush and humiliate his opponent, the only thing everybody can do is just watch.
A rivalry spills over to off the court. A lot of teams play intense games and leave that behind. Kanter however wasn't going to just let the results of this game be left to silence.
LeBron responded to Kanter's comments after the game.
"Well I'm the King, my wife is the queen and my daughter is the princess, so we've got all three covered."
Then, Tuesday morning, James decided to remind everybody just how much he loves playing in Madison Square Garden.
James in New York has always been fun, but after Monday night it's hard to not view this as a rivalry -- or at least one for the regular season. The Knicks cared. Madison Square Garden cared. James cared. The atmosphere was intense and the game itself was fun. The NBA needs moments like this to be great, and that's what it got.
Right now, the Knicks have an Eastern Conference playoff spot. They're playing really good basketball. If it turns out they're for real, and they can make a run at the playoffs, then everybody should be cheering for a series between these two. It doesn't have to make sense. It doesn't even have to be close. It just has to be like Monday night. Considering the words being traded back and forth afterward the showdown, these two aren't done with each other yet.
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