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The New York Knicks could learn something about enthusiasm from the Jewish kids who lined up Wednesday on the court at Madison Square Garden to welcome the players with high-fives and cheek-splitting grins.
Instead, the team's lackluster performance led to a 115-89 loss against the New Jersey Nets - but even that result didn't dampen the spirits of the fans who turned out for the team's first-ever Jewish Heritage night.
"It was so cool!" exclaimed seven-year-old Maya Konoff, who was allowed to leave school early to attend the basketball game - her first - with her parents and several dozen families from Temple Beth Israel in Port Washington, on Long Island.
She was among a small group of children invited onto the court to form a cheering tunnel for Knicks giants like Al Harrington, who reached down low to slap the kids' outstretched hands.
"They didn't get autographs, but it's fine," said Konoff's mother, Jill Mindlin, who like her daughter was sporting a special t-shirt with "New York Knicks" written out in navy Hebrew letters against a white background.
The players themselves wore green jerseys in honor of St. Patrick's Day.
Mindlin said the family rarely goes into the city on weeknights but made an exception because of the Jewish angle - and because many of their friends from synagogue were there as well.
The team, which hosted Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2007 before a sellout crowd, said it had organized the Jewish-themed event to attract Jewish fans after organizing similar nights for Latino, Chinese and Italian groups.
Other professional basketball, baseball and football teams have had similar events, complete with kosher stadium food, in recent years.
Jacob Pinkhasov, who moved to New York from Ramla last fall to begin a computer-science degree at Queens College, said he usually followed basketball on television but was lured to the Garden by the specially priced tickets, which included the Hebrew t-shirt.
"I'm a fan of the New York Knicks, so it's nice to be here - but it's quieter than a game in Israel would be," said the 24-year-old.
AP contributed to this report.