How the Knicks Beat a Championship Team
For three hours on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden the New York Knicks hosted Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, the pride of Israeli hoops, in an exhibition that somewhat resembled a professional basketball game. But the rabbi involvement and prevalent … Read More
For three hours on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden the New York Knicks hosted Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, the pride of Israeli hoops, in an exhibition that somewhat resembled a professional basketball game. But the rabbi involvement and prevalent Hebrew music were a few of the constant reminders that this was clearly not a typical NBA game.
Midgal Ohr ads played during the breaks (the game was a benefit for the Israeli charity), and the Israeli national anthem got big cheers. Also, most of the crowd wasn’t thrilled about the Knicks.
Well, that last part is pretty standard at Madison Square Garden these days. But Rabbi Grossman of Migdal Ohr took over center court for a sing-along during halftime, and that’s pretty unusual.
Since the Knicks last won the NBA finals in 1973, Maccabi has won 34 Israeli championships (that’s all but 2 times) and 13 European championships. Seriously. Bill Clinton was president when the Knicks launched their last winning season. Perhaps history fails me, but it’s possible Israel wasn’t a state the last time Maccabi had a bad year.
Ehud Olmert and Israel basketball legend Tal Brody watched on as the Knicks soundly defeated Maccabi 106-91. (For the record, Olmert’s introduction drew much less applause than when attendees Sara and Robbie got engaged on the big screen during the second half, while the organ piped Hava Nagila.)
The game started off well enough. Maccabi got out to a 4-0 lead and fans began a chant for the visitors. Then reality caught up. The Knicks might not be a good NBA team, but they are far more talented – not to mention bigger – than teams from Israel, or any other league.
The Knicks best players stayed in for the first half, which excuses Maccabi’s result. That isn’t to say the visitors didn’t play hard. While the Knicks took too many lazy shots, Maccabi chased down loose balls and moved around more than is custom in the NBA.
The Maccabi head coach was even agitated enough during the third quarter to draw an ejection. The game was delayed for 10 minutes when he refused to leave the court. During that time, a stray cameraman got too close to the Maccabi bench and was taken away by security, and Rabbi Grossman entered the floor, presumably to act as mediator.
Maccabi’s roster consists of four players born in Israel, one from Poland, and one from Gabon, but it was the eight born in the United States who got most of the playing time. Maccabi fared a little better than in 2007 when they were thumped 112-86 by the Knicks in an exhibition. On Sunday, after trailing by 21 points at halftime, Maccabi came alive in the second half, outscoring New York 30-26 in the third quarter and 26-24 in the fourth.
For Maccabi, next up is a trip to Los Angeles where they will play the Clippers – another futile NBA team – then head back to the Middle East for one more championship season. For the Knicks, another long, fruitless season begins on Oct. 28.