Knicks 113, Raptors 110: "LOTS AND LOTS OF AIR PUNCHES."

I think that comment by "Joamiq" captured how we all feel right now. It's taking all of my big boy restraint not to type this recap with my fists in all caps, and I mean that in a good way. The Knicks just won their sixth straight game and eleventh of twelve, defeating the Toronto Raptors in pants-poopingly exciting fashion. The Raptors took the lead early, but the Knicks were able to storm back by halftime. In the end, a dominant fourth quarter by Amar'e Stoudemire and a preposterous shot by Raymond Felton got the W.

Jump for the detailz!

- It's kind of miraculous how exciting a game this turned out to be, given how poorly it was officiated. A pretty notorious crew of Dick Bavetta, Violet Palmer, and Tony Brothers (who, by the way, needs to front a blues outfit called "Band of Brothers") made some downright hideous calls in both directions. The Knicks got the worst of it in the early going with some ticky-tack calls putting Amar'e Stoudemire, Landry Fields, and Ronny Turiaf in early foul trouble. Later on, it was the Raps who got hosed with three- and five-second violations (although calling Stoudemire for his fifth when he got shoulder-checked by DeMar DeRozan was pretty silly as well). Just getting all that out of the way. Not a good night for the whistle-blowers. Thankfully, we got a classic game nonetheless.

- In the first quarter, both teams pushed the ball, both got called for a lot of fouls, and both gave up easy buckets. Andrea Bargnani kicked off what would be a career night by dominating the smaller Wilson Chandler. Wil actually defended Bargnani pretty well, but when that giant Italian Zach Braff is on, he's on. His off-balance mid-range game is pretty much unstoppable when wet. That really goes for the whole game. At different junctures, Bargnani saw Chandler, Shawne Williams, Danilo Gallinari, and Amar'e Stoudemire. There were lapses, but for the most part, all of those guys stayed in front of him. He just didn't give a gnocchi. That kind of night. Bargnani finished with 41, and I'll surely mention him again.

- In the late first and early second quarter, the Raptors thrived on far superior bench production and more goodness from Bargnani. Bargnani, Bayless, and Barbosa (<3) ran the Raps' second quarter unit to a 13-point lead. Perhaps miffed by Bayless's hairline, a sneering Raymond Felton promptly shot the Knicks back into it by his damn self. In a 2 minute, 18 second stretch of the mid-second, Felton scored 11 points, including two and-ones and a pull-up bomb from downtown. The little dude had 19 at the half (part of a 23-8 run to put the Knicks up 2), and looked pretty badass while he did it. Next year, I'm dressing up as Pissed-Off Raymond Felton for Halloween. I'll shave my head, line up my facial hair, put on a #2 Knicks jersey, and growl at everybody I see. Also, baby arms.

- I know not everybody's a fan of Mike Breen, but I found his story about John Lennon's death really interesting. Breen was a radio DJ while at Fordham, and apparently had to work a double shift because another DJ was too grief-stricken to host her show. Breen recalled getting dozens and dozens of tearful calls to the station, including one from a guy who insisted that Lennon's music saved him from taking his own life. I'm kind of a sissy, but I thought it a pretty poignant story.

- Amar'e Stoudemire missed 7 of his first 9 shots. It was a combination of smart paint-stacking by Toronto, unusually balky rim-rolls for Amar'e, and some eerily mid-November-like entry passes by Felton. After a pretty stanky first half, we were all verrrry curious to see how Amar'e (and the Amar'e-Raymond tandem) would recover later on. More on that later. (!!!1!!!!111!11)

- At one point, Stoudemire missed a put-back dunk, flooring Leandro Barbosa in the process. Quoth Walt Frazier: "He almost put Barbosa into the rim that time!". The image of Stoudemire dunking Barbosa tickled me, especially given Leandro's ability to roll into a ball.

- Two things that I always take note of and have never actually mentioned (or maybe I have): 1. Amar'e Stoudemire commits a LOT of three-second violations that go uncalled. 2. Wilson Chandler is, for my money, the best one-handed rebounder out there.

- I KNOW I SAID I'D RESIST THE URGE TO CAPITALIZE BUT THIS PUTBACK DUNK BY LANDRY FIELDS CAN ONLY BE ACKNOWLEDGED WITH SHOUTING AND I FIND THAT CAPITAL LETTERS ARE A USEFUL MEANS TO CONVEY VOLUME IN PRINT.

- Ronny Turiaf, Shawne Williams, and Toney Douglas all saw minutes, but Toney was the only one to have much of an impact*. A DNP for Timofey Mozgov was to be expected, given Jay Triano's short, mobile lineup, but I can't blame those of you who were clamoring for Anthony Randolph. The bench has been quiet during this streak, which is something that might draw more attention when those good teams come to town next week.

- *On the court, that is. Ronny Turiaf had a legendary performance on the bench. Exhibit A was his reaction to that Fields putback. Here's Exhibit B. The unsung MVP of the evening is a tie between Turiaf and Gian's new Tumblr.

- Jill Martin interviewed C.C. Sabathia at halftime. Jill did not ask C.C. whether he likes to eat honey directly out of a beehive, which is what I would have asked him.

- The Knicks had 4 of their 15 turnovers in the first 3 minutes of the third quarter. I don't know if that's interesting, but I mentioned it twice in my notes, so...there it is.

- Landry Fields Is Smart And Also Athletic, Vol. 328: On one third quarter defensive possession, Landry was guarding Sonny Weems in the left corner. Weems cut baseline to clear out for Bargnani, who was isolated against his defender. Sensing the iso, Landry lagged ever so slightly in his pursuit of Weems to show help on Bargnani. Smarts. Bargnani, sensing the double, threw a quick pass to Weems under the basket. Fields saw it coming, recovered in a split second, and rejected Weems at the rim. Athleticism. I love Landry Fields. He finished with 9 points and another 10 rebounds.

- Besides that play, the Knicks' help on Bargnani was on and off. I very much enjoyed the plays in which Felton was forced to switch onto Bargnani after a screen, but quickly motioned for a second switch with Fields or Wilson Chandler. Heads-up stuff. On other occasions, the Knicks either switched outright, leaving Bargnani to drain over a smaller player, or doubled him while his head was up, allowing the cross-court pass to a wide-open Raptor.

- Danilo Gallinari missed some good, open three-point looks in the third quarter, but it was a treat to see him driving and thriving in this one. Gallo had a few impressive finishes, including a driving lefty lay-in and a baseline flush, and achieved an 8-9 night at the line. He also put in some nice defensive stands against Linas Kleiza, although Kleiza kinda defends himself at this point.

- I really wish Jorge Garbajosa was still on the Raptors, if only for a Barbosa/Garbajosa unit that would make Walt Frazier's head explode.

- Actually, "Barbosa" and "Garbajosa" just sound like the way Clyde would pronounce the words "bulbous" and "globus", respectively.

- After a lights-out first half, a visibly tired Raymond Felton had trouble connecting in the second. Luckily for us, he completely made up for it by taking off his scoring hat and stepping into his point guard chaps for the fourth quarter. Felton had 7 assists in the final period, many of which went to...

- ...Amar'e Stoudemire. Stoudemire was absolutely, positively, 100 million dollarsly dominant in the fourth. Dueling with the still-deadly Bargnani, Amar'e had 18 points in the final frame. Suddenly, the pick-and-roll with Felton was on point, the dunks were numerous, and the previously shaky jumper was Splash Splashington. Damn near everything dropped. Felton hit the game-winner, but Stoudemire was unquestionably the hero of the fourth quarter.

- And oh what a game-winner by Raymond. With the shot clock down to pennies and no room to operate, Felton threw caution to the wind and heaved a step-back, line-drive three from the top of the arc. The ball caught rim and bounced a half dozen times while big men bobbed madly for the rebound, but there would be no rebound. After a full second or two suspended above the cylinder, the ball dropped through the net. The Garden exploded, the bench celebrated, and all of my orifices were simultaneously evacuated. After a timeout, Bargnani's deep game-tying attempt was well short. Ballgame.

- Just saying, losing a three-point game that included a five-second violation and an insanely lucky opposing bounce in the final minute sounds exactly like something that would have happened to the Knicks in the past ten years. You should feel nothing but sympathy for Raptors fans. That was probably brutal.

- The Knicks are now 3-0 when I wear a crown during the second half.

Great, great game. Yeah, the refs sucked, and yeah, it was too close for comfort, but that was an exciting-ass game of basketball. Thanks to everybody who joined in the game thread and good night to one and all.

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