The last time a New York professional team lost at Madison Square Garden, Mets fans were panicking after losing Jacob deGrom; the Yankees were hoping Aaron Judge would accept a roughly $300 million contract while hopes were beginning to dwindle; and the Jets were 7-4 and coasting toward what appeared to be an assured playoff spot.
Plenty has happened since Dec. 3, and nearly all of it (sorry, Jets fans) has been encouraging for Big Apple sports. In this holiday season, it is a nice time to appreciate what you have: a bunch of relevant, good sports teams — including the two on Broadway, which might be the most surprising.
The Knicks and Rangers have not lost a home game — or a game at all — since Dec. 3, when the Garden hosted a matinee featuring an embarrassing Knicks loss to the Mavericks, their fourth straight defeat at home, and an embarrassing Rangers loss to the Blackhawks, their fifth loss in six games.
After those valleys, New York sports may be peaking. The Knicks and Rangers have won seven straight games simultaneously for the first time ever, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The last time both teams had won six straight at the same time occurred during the 1993-94 season, when each made a trip to the Finals (a better trip for the Rangers than the Knicks).
The Knicks have turned a corner as Julius Randle has tapped into his 2020-21 magic, RJ Barrett has morphed into his best, attacking self and Jalen Brunson has emerged as the point guard they have lacked for decades. Tom Thibodeau has ignored the resumes and contracts, benching two veterans who earn the third-most (Evan Fournier) and fifth-most (Derrick Rose) money on the team this season.
Instead, the head coach has trusted the defensive relentlessness of Quentin Grimes and Deuce McBride, who have hounded wings and guards in a fashion Thiobodeau appreciates. In their first 23 games, the Knicks did not hold an opponent under 100 points. During the seven-game winning streak, opponents are averaging 98.3 points.
The Rangers, whose streak is tied for the second-longest since their 2015-16 season, are suddenly playing like a complete team. The Kid Line is growing up fast, with Alexis Lafrenière, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko rolling together (although Chytil suffered an upper body injury in their latest win). Artemi Panarin and Adam Fox are playing like stars. Igor Shesterkin is playing like the reigning Vezina Trophy winner.
On Sunday, they put up a touchdown against the Blackhawks — the same team that beat them back on Dec. 3 — in a 7-1, statement win at the United Center. The rise of New York has coincided with a fall in Chicago: The Blackhawks have not won in the past two-and-a-half weeks, and the Knicks have beaten the Bulls twice in the span.
The teams in Midtown have been the hottest in this cold month, but each local team has provided reasons for hope. The Nets are looking downright functional and dominant, racking up 10 wins in 11 games to soar up to fourth in the Eastern Conference. Kevin Durant might be the NBA MVP, and Kyrie Irving has played a month’s worth of thrilling basketball without a major controversy, which qualifies as progress.
The Devils and Islanders are in the playoff hunt. St. John’s (11-1) men’s hoops is only behind No. 2 UConn in the Big East. Rutgers (7-4) already knocked off one ranked opponent and should have beaten another.
The Mets and Yankees are fighting for The Post’s back page seemingly every day by adding star after star. Of the 17 top free agents, by Jon Heyman’s evaluation, New York teams have signed seven (including Judge, who came back to the Yankees, and Justin Verlander, who replaces deGrom with the Mets). According to Spotrac, baseball’s top two projected payrolls for next season belong to Steve Cohen and Hal Steinbrenner, respectively. Combined, they have committed about $975 million to free agents this offseason, just a few relievers shy of a billion.
The Giants and Jets — a combined 2-7-1 since Week 11 — have been less money, but they still are engaged in meaningful December games with significant shots at a postseason spot. Compared with the past half-decade of NFL football in the area, New York fans will take it as they approach Christmas.
In New York, it’s the most won-derful time of the year. Enjoy it — as the Knicks and Rangers, among others, have shown repeatedly, it doesn’t always last long.
🏈 SCHWARTZ: Young pass rushers restoring Giants’ winning formula as they emerge
⚾ SHERMAN: Mets are the premier spenders atop MLB’s two-tier reality
🏈 O’CONNOR: Robert Saleh shows true leadership blaming himself for costly Jets mistake
🎙 Wayne Randazzo leaving Mets’ WCBS radio booth
In his official Mets introduction, Kodai Senga was asked about the pitch that could make him so enjoyable to watch.
How did he learn his intriguingly named ghost forkball?
“Practice,” the Japanese pitcher said in English and with a smile on Monday.
The Mets welcomed Senga, the 29-year-old whom they signed to a five-year deal, in a ceremony at Citi Field. There are few guarantees when importing players from Nippon Professional Baseball, but with uniqueness, which Senga brings, often comes effectiveness. The Mets have assembled a pitching staff with both unique and elite potential.
Senga can touch 100 mph with his fastball, which is encouraging but not necessarily distinct. More noteworthy is the ghost forkball, which earned its moniker because it disappears.
Senga’s forkball essentially serves as a softer splitter and looks just like his fastball — until it vanishes and dives out of the strike zone. The pitch does not generate much spin, which helps it plunge even further than an average split-finger.
The forkball is seldom-seen in MLB. If its dominance translates to the majors, it would join a rotation filled with dominant individual pitches.
Baseball Savant invented a stat to evaluate pitches’ success called “Run Value,” which essentially measures how effective each pitch is. The Mets have been collecting elite pitches.
• Justin Verlander’s four-seamer was the best four-seamer in baseball last season.
• Edwin Diaz’s slider was the third-best slider in baseball last season.
• Max Scherzer’s slider was the fifth-best slider in baseball last season.
• Jose Quintana’s four-seamer was the 11th-best four-seamer in baseball last season.
• Carlos Carrasco’s changeup was the 21st-best changeup in baseball last season.
Sure, the Mets will take balanced arsenals with several offerings to get hitters out. But sometimes, one dominant pitch is all a pitcher needs. Where will Senga’s forkball fit in?
The Jets do not know who their quarterback will be against the Jaguars on Thursday.
Will it be the appointed franchise quarterback, handed the keys upon being drafted No. 2 in 2021, or apparently the most unlucky quarterback in the league?
At Monday’s practice, head coach Robert Saleh would not name his starter, though it appears likely he would start Mike White over Zach Wilson if White is healthy enough to play. White could not find a doctor who would let him play with his rib injury Sunday, and Wilson took control of the team again in a 20-17 loss to the Lions.
White, a fifth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2018, has been repeatedly waived and housed on practice squads throughout his career. He found his way to the Jets and rose last year, finally getting his chance and running with it in a stunning win over the Bengals. The next week he hurt his right forearm. Two weeks later, he was out of the job as Wilson returned.
This season, White again awaited his turn and again seized it, lighting up the Bears in a Week 12 win. Two weeks later, the Bills’ defense scrambled his ribs with a few crushing hits, and his future is again unclear.
The Jets’ immediate and future quarterback also are unclear. White’s ability, intelligence and toughness are shining through, but his body is letting him down.
LeSean McCoy is emerging as an early possible contender to succeed Shannon Sharpe as Skip Bayless’ debate p
Jim Hines, who in 1968 became the first man to sprint 100 meters in under 10 seconds, and later that year won a gold medal in that distance at the Olympic Games
The Miami Heat continued their improbable postseason run by rallying to beat the Denver Nuggets on the road 111-108 in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, and in the p
Weather can have a big impact on specific wagers for sports bettors. How does the time of day affect NASCAR races? What about wind dir