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Knicks 117, Hornets 111

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How sweet it is! The Knicks finally looked like a basketball team tonight, and turned back the Hornets with an even, consistent effort tonight at the Garden. I missed what sounded to be a hot start in the first quarter, but got to see the victorious fourth, which was more than a little refreshing. Some notes:

- The three-point shooting this evening was much more tempered, and came mostly when called for. The Knicks weren't especially accurate (7-23), so they refused to settle. They moved the ball instead and attacked the basket as well to earn 24-28 from the charity stripe.

- The defense made some key stops in the fourth, and looked generally improved throughout. You can't really call giving up 111 points a "good" defensive performance, but the Knicks helped much better and didn't switch on absolutely everything. Credit the Hornets with taking whatever New York gave them. Emeka "The Dream" Okafor was busting out post moves like you wouldn't believe, and finished with 24 on 9-13 shooting. Chris Paul, for his part, is a near-perfect basketball player. Good lord.

- Holy tits, Larry Hughes. What's gotten into you? For those of you who didn't bear witness, Larry dropped in 20 points on 8-13 shooting and added 6 boards, 2 assists, a steal, and an overall +10 as side dishes. Hughes made a few gorgeous passes, checked Chris Paul as best he could (Paul hit some tough, tough shots), and even made a big bucket or two down the stretch. Until the other shoe drops, this is excellent.

- I wanna give Chris Duhon a noogie or buy him a soda or something. Duhon dropped 18 and 9, and was incredibly precise on the pick-and-roll. Defying all the flak I've given him this past week, Du repeatedly conjured new ways to find David Lee in scoring position. Sure enough, that opened up his scoring opportunities, and Chris dropped 18 points to go with his 9 assists. Way to bring it, Du. Keep pushing.

- Danilo Gallinari's shot was in preseason form tonight. His legs just weren't under him, and he kept fading away for no apparent reason. This meant for just 1-6 from three (which probably made his percentage plummet, which makes me terribly sad) and 2-9 from the field. On the bright side, Gallo drove more than his line suggests and handed out a career-high 5 assists, a couple of which were rather pretty.

- Wilson Chandler reined in his attempts a little bit, opting to shake and bake against the bigger David West rather than spotting up from outside. Wil had only 9 points on 4-10 shooting, but I was pleased with his shot selection, both in quality and quantity.

- I totally missed Toney Douglas's six minutes, but it doesn't look like it went very well. The kid needs more time to get comfortable. Larry Hughes's mini-breakout doesn't help matters. The Knicks have too many players with names ending in "s".

- Speaking of which, Jared Jeffries caught a Hilton Armstrong arm right in the eyehole. Knowing that Armstrong sharpens his elbows twice daily, I was not surprised to see Jared lose quite a bit of blood. He hit one of two free throws with his eye hastily patched and didn't return. He probably got some stitches.

- Funny Walt Frazier moment: With the Knicks starting the fourth down four points, Clyde noted that "the Knicks [had] not won a game this season when they trailed after three quarters". Coulda cut that sentence short, Clyde.

- David Lee's mid-range shot has come along quite nicely. He got his usual fill of easy finishes off pick-and-rolls, but also did a superb job facing up and hitting jumpers at various ranges. Lee put up a very impressive 28 (13-17) and 8 in 35 minutes.

- I can't wait for this movie with Sandra Bullock and Big Baby.

- Bobby Brown should probably reconsider most of what he does on the basketball court.

- Al Harrington played his second game off the bench and was similarly instrumental in the fourth quarter. He put up double-digit points (I think) and spiked one of Paul's late-game layups off the backboard. Al's pretty animated down the stretch, but he's backing up his antics.

Tonight was a welcome departure from the heartbreak of last two games. It didn't take much, really. The shot selection was slightly better, the help defense was a step quicker, and the ball movement was a bit more precise. It's a game like this that makes games like the first three even more aggravating. The Knicks are deep and not without talent. It just takes a little effort.

My only complaint? Needs more Toney Douglas. Other than that, tonight was the first positive experience of the 09-10 season. Hopefully the first of many. Or at least several.