Spike Lee — and 15K other Knicks fans — stoked for return of playoff basketball at MSG

It's been a while since Madison Square Garden saw a nearly packed house.

It's been even longer since MSG hosted a playoff game.

Both droughts came to an end on Sunday for New York's playoff game against the Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks sold out more than 15,000 tickets for Sunday's Game 1 after allowing roughly 2,000 fans per game during the regular season when the initial COVID-19 crowd restrictions were lifted. Sunday marked the largest crowd for an NBA game since the onset of the pandemic.

While Trae Young spoiled the party in a 107-105 Hawks win, the return of a near-capacity crowd was a big win regardless of the game's outcome.

New York Knicks fans cheer before Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks, Sunday, May 23, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)
Sunday's Madison Square Garden crowd was the largest in the NBA since the onset of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)

Spike Lee makes presence known at MSG

Spike Lee joined the party for the first Knicks playoff game since 2013. The iconic film director and devout Knicks fan got there early to give some coaching advice to All-Star Julius Randle during warm-ups.

While MSG wasn't quite filled to its roughly 19,000-seat capacity, it might as well have been once the lights went down.

When rookie Immanuel Quickley hit a transition 3-pointer in the midst of a second-quarter Knicks run, Lee and the rest of the MSG crowd went berserk.

A third-quarter transition dunk by RJ Barrett sent fans into a frenzy yet again.

Sports fans have had precious few moments to celebrate since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sunday marked a milestone for a return to normalcy with scenes like MSG's and the swarm of golf fans who witnessed Phil Mickelson's historic victory at the PGA Championship.

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