It got pretty ugly at times, but as "Benny Blanco from the BriX" said in the game thread, you can't ask for a better way for the Knicks to enter a week of elite opposition than with a win streak. As was the case with a number of games on this seven straight/twelve of the last thirteen streak, one got the feeling that New York barely escaped last night with a victory in D.C. A victory it was, though, as Amar'e Stoudemire managed to dominate even through some sloppy play and some defensive stops and free throws in crunch time were enough to hold off the Wiz.
Take the jump for some brief notes.
- Raymond Felton and the Knicks were able to erase an early Washington lead in the first quarter, only to see them open a bigger one in the second quarter. The Knicks weren't defending too poorly- Washington gained a lot of ground by hitting long twos- but their offense was nauseatingly November-esque. Knick possessions were fraught with early shots and turnovers. Raymond Felton was frosty from the field for the first time in a while (he finished 5-17), while he and Amar'e Stoudemire both had trouble getting Amar'e easy looks without mishap. Amar'e got his share of free throws (10-11 on the night), but a combination of failed attempts to draw contact and failed attempts to dribble a basketball made for an unsightly 11 turnovers in 42 minutes. Considerably more sightly was the fact that Amar'e managed 36 points and 10 rebounds despite all of his issues. I think we can settle for that.
- The Knicks' renaissance came in the second half, and came pretty simply. After cutting what was once an 11-point lead to 5 at halftime, New York came out of the break hitting from outside. The Wizfriends, meanwhile, were suddenly stricken with the inability to hit even the openest of shots. The Knicks also had more success drawing whistles in the second half, and excellent free throw shooting (26-30) was a big reason they survived a few scares (back-to-back drives by John Wall and Gilbert Arenas cut the lead to 3 at 1:36) down the stretch.
- Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler played lovely, efficient games o' hoop. Chandler hit his first seven shots, and ended up 7-9 for 16 points to go with his 8 rebounds. Gallo didn't do much from the perimeter, but put the ball on the floor for an impressive 16 points on 9-9 shooting from the line. If those two could provide exactly that kind of output every night, (Well, Chandler could've gotten to the line a few times, but still...) I think we'd all be delighted.
- Oh, by scoring 36, Amar'e tied Willie Naulls's streak of 7 consecutive games scoring 30 or more points. Suddenly, everybody knows who Willie Naulls is. Naulls is just hoping that all this attention will draw more unique visitors to his blog about gluten-free baking for cats.
- I don't know how to say this, but...I love the way Landry Fields backpedals. Seriously, take a look. He's got great form. Very quick heels. Also, Landry had 9 of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, comprising more than a third of the Knicks' scoring in that period.
- Spike Lee was in attendance, sharing courtside seats with Wiz owner Ted Leonsis. It was nice to see Spike on the road making noise for his Knicks, although I must say it was a little off-putting to catch glimpses of him when Leonsis vacated the other seat. Without his companion, Spike was pretty much the only guy in his whole row, and a little scruffy dude wearing a brightly colored hoodie and screaming at passers-by generally qualifies as a hobo.
- Toney Douglas defended (4 steals and a nice job chasing Wall over screens) and passed (6 assists) better in this game than he has in the last few, but his shot is still perilously offline (3-10, 1-5 from downtown). Perhaps still bothered by a strained neck/back, now would be a good time for Toney to show us that he can play some point guard.
- A Shawne Williams jumper hit a a part of the backboard that only exists for a minute-long window when Earth, the sun, and at least two of the Galilean moons align. Naturally, it turned out that Extra E's foot was on the three-point line when he shot, which completely explains his indifference about the ball's landing point. (Shawne would go on miss a real three by a more respectable margin. His 3P% is now just 77%.)
- Amar'e's block on Wall to seal the win (which came immediately after his 11th turnover). Mmm.
- Walt Frazier described a speedy John Wall lay-in as "vintage John Wall". Can anything a 20 year-old person does be considered "vintage"? I say yes, because Clyde is infallible.
On that note, I'm off to go do some vintage things. The Knicks are now 15-9, with some Goliaths approaching on the schedule. The madness starts tomorrow at noon against the Nuggets. We can be thankful that the Knicks have put themselves into a pretty good position going into said madness.