It's amazing what a difference trying makes. After another dispirited first half, the Knicks bucked their trend of sleepwalking on the court and outplayed the Wizards in the third and fourth quarters to emerge with a blowout win. The big story of the night was Mike D'Antoni's second half benching of Chris Duhon in favor of Nate Robinson. Nate started the second half and keyed the big runs with hot shooting and relatively focused point guard play.
Take the jump for full game notes...
- Walt Frazier got legitimately choked up on camera remembering his coach and mentor, Dick McGuire. Of all the accounts I've heard of McGuire's legacy today, Clyde's was my favorite. McGuire sounds like a guy who loved everything about the game of basketball and excelled at every level of the sport, but shied away from the fame it might have brought him. He was an admirable man, and such an emotional response from the typically unflappable Clyde is a testament to that.
- David Lee started the game with flames on his fingertips, canning each of his first five shots, including 4-4 on jumpers. It ended up being a quiet but excellent performance by Lee. He finished 10-18 for 22 points, and added the usual 10 rebounds and the increasingly usual 6 assists. If Dave doesn't post a triple-double by season's end, I will be sorely disappointed.
- On the other end, Brendan Haywood made it look like it was going to be another one of those games. He blocked the Knicks' first shot of the game and scored the Wizards' first two buckets off offensive rebounds. Instead of getting smushed down low, though, several Knicks stepped up to help Lee board. Wilson Chandler (6), Danilo Gallinari (9), Jared Jeffries (8), Nate Robinson (6), and Al Harrington (5) each lent a hand on the glass for an overall 47-31 edge. As long as the Knicks are without a 7-footer, team-wide commitment to rebounding has to be part of the gameplan, even at the risk of slowing the fast break.
- Danilo Gallinari ended up with a decent line (15 and 9 on 5-8 shooting, including 4-5 on three-pointers), but has gradually drifted back to his outpost in the corner of the arc. It seems like Gallo starts each game attacking, then gravitates toward the corner if his early drives don't fall. Danilo should do what he finds most comfortable, but we all know he's got more to his game than the corner three.
- On one possession, David Lee had no less than three passes tipped until he finally coughed up the ball. Clyde quipped that Lee was "hellbent to throw that one away". Breen noted that "you're only credited with one turnover", despite Lee's best efforts.
- Larry Hughes hath returned. An emancipated and bearded Hughes played a solid game, contributing 11 points (5-10) in 17 minutes, and defending nicely. Hahn twath that the facial hair isn't going anywhere, free or not. I'm in favor, because the thing is pretty goddamn majestic.
- I've heard a few theories here and on Twitter that Mike D'Antoni played Hughes out of fear that his own facial hair would be overshadowed. Alternatively, it could be some kind of mustaches vs. beards rivalry. Either scenario is completely plausible. My patchy scruff has no opinion on the matter.
- MSG played a couple shots of the same toddler demolishing a plate of cheese fries in the first half. Eventually, Clyde got into it and started announcing the gustatory antics, praising the "perseverance" and "dexterity" of the hungry little kid. All of this led me to decide that one of my life goals is to have Frazier provide a couple minutes of commentary on something I do. I want to take a nap or walk to class or something with Clyde calling the action. My birthday's in a month. Somebody make this happen.
- I'm not a big fan of the "Olé, olé, olé, olé" chant that the Garden soundshow plays at least once a game. It seems unnecessary and out of character in a building that's perfectly capable of generating it's own sound. Also, this is America.
- I think if Wilson Chandler was a superhero, he would be completely mute, but communicate with his tattoos somehow. I haven't really thought this through.
- Chandler, for his part, started quietly, but joined the fun in the third quarter by driving to the basket more and dropping a couple of his signature creative finishes at the rim.
- As mentioned, Nate Robinson was tonight's story. While Duhon sipped Gatorade (Actually, I bet Du drinks V8 on the bench. In fact, I'm certain of it.), Nate got loose for 23, 8, and 6. There were a few brainfarts (a pull-up three early in the shot clock with 3 minutes left in the game, a one-handed bullet pass directly into traffic), but Robinson did his darndest to strike a balance between his own offense and that of his teammates. That included passing up three-pointers for mid-range jumpers and speedy drives to the rim. When he was open, he shot. When teammates were open, he usually passed to them. This is all we ask of a point guard on offense, and Nate provided it.
That's all I've got for you. I spent much of tonight's game screaming "YEAHHHHH" while my roommate played the opening bass line to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Around the World" over and over again, so my notes weren't as thorough as usual. The Knicks play again Friday night against the Bucks.