Rebuilding doesn’t make a loss like this any less painful for Knicks fans

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By the end, the final buzzer’s groan filled the old gymnasium. The folks had had their fun and now it was time to catch their trains home. It’s night like these when if feels like there has never been a faster-emptying arena ever built than Madison Square Garden.

It is starting to sink in that this, in so many ways, is what the season is, what it is going to be, in November and January, in March and April. It’s one thing to talk about the discipline of a full rebuild. It’s one thing to buy in, and to acknowledge that certain things have to be done, and it’s going to be a slow process.

(“Process.” Goodness, that word really doesn’t roll off the tongue, does it?)

In so many ways, this was the paint-by-numbers formula that we have already grown accustomed to, one-tenth of the way into the season.

1. The Knicks play a fervent, furious pace on both sides of the ball.

2. They take a second-half lead, they tease the Garden folks to their feet, they look like they’re going to take out a playoff-caliber team, give their fans a trophy to bring home with them on the LIRR and the subway.

3. One of the Knicks (Tim Hardaway Jr. on this night) has an especially rousing game.

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Hardaway outplayed by Pacers star late as Knicks lose close one
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4. They don’t hold onto that lead, and the possessions that are most costly are painful to watch, no matter how few expectations are attached to all of this.

5. The final buzzer groans. The gym empties.

6. Rinse, repeat.

“That’s a tough one,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “We have to get better in late-game situations.”

There were moments in their 107-101 loss when it looked like they were going to be OK, because there are always moments when they look that way. The Pacers are good but they are not the Warriors. They don’t keep 40-0 runs tucked away in their back pockets. When Damyean Dotson knocked down a 3 with 4:25 left in the game, giving the Knicks a 95-91 lead, there was a legit burst of glee that greeted the basket and the Indiana timeout that followed.

“We were knocking on the door,” Fizdale said.

That’s the part the Knicks have down. They almost never get blown out. They gave the Warriors quite a battle for about 40 minutes last week. They put themselves in position almost every game to kick that door in.

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