Paul Westphal's Sacramento Kings got a big win last night at the Garden, their biggest of the year thus far. It was just their second victory over a team with winning record. And their first such triumph on the road, where they have struggled mightily, regally even.
Entering the game with an 8-28 record, their lone previous win over a better-than .500 squad was a home win over Denver's Nuggets-perhaps the team embroiled more 'Melodrama than any other this season-back on Jan. 6. The headline on ESPN.com's recap from that game read: "Tyreke Evans' double-double helps Kings stun Nuggets." The Worldwide Leader's story from last night's game used the same verb: "Kings Stun Knicks"
And, why shouldn't it? Removing the vagaries of travel, fatigue and motivation, it is stunning that those Kings beat these Knicks. Factoring in the realities of the NBA life (mostly just the recently concluded and exhausting Western Conference road trip) and it's still unexpected. Which tells me two important things about the Knicks as we move downhill toward the All-Star break.
1. The Knicks can still be had by just about anyone on any given night if they aren't hitting their shots.
2. The Knicks have reached the point of being stunnable.
Taken together, these two notions sum up the bitter and the sweet of the early portion of the season. Boy, we've come a long way already! It took nearly as long to get from Testaverde to Sanchez as it did for the Knicks to regain the standing to have a "stunning" loss.
Since, I don't think it's a gilt-edged revelation to say the 2010-2011 Knickerbockers are not infallible, let's just focus on the second point just for a second. After years of managing the terrible troika of being undertalented, underprepared and overconfident under the chesire grin of Isiah Thomas, the Knicks have become a fiesty midtable force in the few months since Amar'e Stoudemire joined the club. They have clear-cut inalienable strengths in personnel and scheme and will be favored against at least half the teams in the Association. They can be stunned. No longer are they the ones, like the Kings, whose wins are regarded with surprise.
Of course, if there are too many more losses like last night (or Frazier forbid it, Amar'e gets injured) then they will lose their stunnability faster than Isiah would have traded it away for Allen Iverson's Turkish contract had he still been in charge.