Knicks finally show the kind of heart NCAA brought to Garden

Perhaps some of the residue from last weekend’s NCAA East Regional rubbed off on the Knicks after South Carolina used their locker room while earning its first ever trip to the Final Four.

Watching a bunch of college kids playing with heart and passion in games where every point and possession mattered was exhilarating. Cheers and tears were the product of raw emotion. When visitors called the Garden the “mecca of basketball” it felt like it.

It’s been a long time since the Knicks have generated that same atmosphere. Now just as many “fans” would like for them to lose and improve their position in the lottery than for them to win. That’s how bad things have gotten. But there they were Monday night, putting together one of their best games of the season to beat the visiting Pistons, 109-95, and avoid mathematical elimination from the playoffs.

It left Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy at a loss for words after his Pistons didn’t score for more than seven minutes in the third quarter and wound up losing an important game.

“I don’t make sense of it,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t have any idea.”

Give the Gamecocks credit. The college kids played with heart and energy. Maybe it was contagious.

“They moved the ball, played defense and they got a win,” coach Jeff Hornacek said of his Knicks.

Van Gundy wasn’t happy.

“We were just bad,” he said after his team dropped to 34-40 while the Knicks improved to 28-46. “We’re in one of those stretches where even the things we had done well — run back on defense and take care of the ball — we didn’t do either one of them tonight.”

Give the Knicks some credit, too. After an 0-4 road trip they could have tanked the rest of the season like many suggest and not shown up Monday night. But Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis got off to fast starts with 19 points each in the first half and then Detroit fell asleep in the third quarter, when it scored just 15 points. By then the…

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