We've seen plenty of Jekyll and Hyde games from the Knicks this season. They've been known to race ahead in the first half only to lose their grasp in the second or, more commonly, follow a tepid first half with a spirited late-game comeback. Rarely, though, have the Knicks held on/come back to actually win one of those tales of two halves. In that sense, I guess the Knicks showed some signs of progress tonight. It sure didn't feel that way at some points, but New York came out on top, and that's what matters.
It started with a bang. Chicago was 24 hours removed from that epic comeback loss against Sacramento, and looked in no mood to play basketball. The Knicks, meanwhile, were passing and finishing like champs and cleaning the glass on both ends. They went into the half up 22, needing only a modest effort to sail to their third straight win. They couldn't manage modest, though. After almost two quarters of sub-modest basketball, it took a couple long-distance makes from Jared Jeffries (!), some late-game gaffes by Chicago, and one huge rim-rolling jumper from David Lee to survive.
Take the jump for a few notes and thangs...
- Danilo Gallinari kept missing from the field, but made his presence felt in other ways. He shot just 2-13, but got to the line a little (6-6), rebounded (7), and played some nice man defense for stretches (3 blocks, including one spectacular swat of a Luol Deng drive). As ugly as his line was, I was pleased with Gallo tonight. He took the right shots and stayed active without forcing. They just don't fall on some nights. It was nice to see D'Antoni let Danilo work through his misses and find other ways to contribute.
- I'm not gonna rag on D'Antoni after a win, but with Jonathan Bender sitting the second half after straining his hip, the Knick rotation was actually only seven guys. I'm not saying that was the reason for the second half collapse, but I'm not saying it wasn't.
- I'm not entirely sure how the topic came up (presumably something to do with Chicago's mascot), but Clyde and Breen spent a good chunk of the second quarter discussing bullfighting.
- Jared Jeffries was whistled for a foul in the second quarter and D'Antoni responded by immediately yanking Al Harrington off the bench. Jeffries looked confused, then glanced up at the scoreboard, saw that he'd just committed his third foul, and visibly uttered "Oh, fuck". Props to MSG for catching that.
- Al Harrington hit the halftime buzzer-beater to put the Knicks up 22, and turned to run down court with his arm still bent in a gooseneck. This meant that the guy sitting courtside who wanted a high five had to slap his elbow. It sucks to get left hanging.
- Jill Martin and Hugh Jackman conducted a halftime interview so fraught with sexual tension and intrigue, it might as well have been Swordfish 2: Gimme a Minute.
- I mentioned Bender's sore hip before, but it didn't sound like it was a big deal. They're just taking every possible precaution with Legs, which makes sense. By the way, there currently exists an extremely fly "Legs" t-shirt ready for production. I know it's far too soon for that, but are people interested?
- Derrick Rose is exceedingly good at basketball when he chooses to be. I harp on David Lee's poor help defense, but Rose would've made Dikembe Mutombo look wimpy with some of these drives. The former first pick single-handedly outscored the Knicks 16-15 in the third quarter, which is a testament both to Rose's majesty and to how messily the Knicks shat themselves in the second half.
- Walt Frazier cannot whistle, which is a late entry but likely front-runner for "Most Surprising Thing I Learned in 2009".
- Hey Wilson Chandler (16 points on 8-18, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals), I see you. Keep attacking.
- I mentioned it briefly in the intro, but I'll reiterate that two of the huge shots that ended up stifling the Chicago comeback were long bombs by Jared Jeffries. Jared canned a three from the right corner with about 10 minutes left, then took a step in for a long two around the 6 minute mark. Thankfully, he rimmed out a three that would've iced it in the final minute, or the world's bear population would've awoken from hibernation, vacated their caves, headed to the nearest ocean, and plunged headfirst into extinction.
- The Bulls also found every possible way to cough up the ball when the game was in the balance. There were bad passes, awful shots, violations, and all other manner of wasted possession. I think Luol Deng dribbled off his gouche at one point.
- David Lee's in-out-and-in-again jumper put the Knicks up 5 and in the clear with 6 seconds left, and it was a well-deserved flourish on a brilliant night by Lee. Joakim Noah is a damn tough cover, but Lee grit his teeth, held his breath to withstand the smell, and went toe-to-toe with Noah in a battle for the paint. Dave finished with a masterful 18 points, 21 boards, and 5 assists (including one gorgeous no-look dish to Chris Duhon. I've been waiting for Clyde to yell "Skip to my Lee!"), while Noah came up with 10 points and 21 bounds of his own. It was fun to watch the two former Gatorbros go at it. By the way, I'd bet that Noah is actually far cleaner than the average basketball player and smells like fresh flowers on the court. You know, just to mess with people's heads. Anyway, not to get all spoiler alert on Willy's stickers, but Lee was the man of the night.
- Last point: Don't mock Bulls fans. Isn't blowing a 35-point lead, then falling just short of a 22-point comeback exactly the kind of thing the Knicks have been known to do as recently as like a month ago? Our friends at Blog-a-Bull deserve your sympathy. Show some love, and remember that we're not that far removed from stretches like that. It could very well happen again.
And on that note, I'll leave y'all to your other activities. Next game is Christmas!