Like many Knicks games this season, tonight's win over the Nets was a tale of two halves. Thankfully, the opponent was helpless enough to render New York's own mood swings less than fatal. In the first half, we saw the familiar Knicks. They actually scored pretty effectively, but gave the Nets absolutely anything they wanted on the other end. The first two quarters today comprised the Nets' best half of the season. They league's worst team scored 61 points in the opening periods, keyed by Devin Harris, who drove to the rim and pulled-up from midrange pretty much unimpeded. In the second half? 36. The Knicks tightened up their defense and (aided slightly by the Nets' natural instincts to implode) turned a losing effort into a decisive win.
Notes, after the jump...
- Danilo Gallinari was back in uniform tonight (with a shooter's sleeve!), but Mike D'Antoni opted to ride the hot hand and keep Al Harrington in the starting lineup, which paid off nicely. From the outset, Al recognized the speed advantage he had over Josh Boone and exploited it mercilessly. Harrington's spin move is deadly, and he utilized it early and often to blow past Boone and finish at the rim. On the game, Al limited himself to only three threes, and did most of his work around the basket. He didn't just score either, finishing with a superb 24 points (10-18), 14 boards, and 5 assists in 40 minutes. Al's a hell of a player, and if he was always this motivated, nobody would be in favor of trading him.
- Just to emphasize that the quality of Harrington's dominant performance was a welcome departure from the usual, Clyde reacted to a gorgeous pass thrown Al to David Lee with "where did that come from!?".
- David Lee couldn't do much to stop Brook Lopez on offense (as Clyde said, "size matters"), but give credit to both Lee and Harrington for superb box-outs throughout the game. Lopez was muscled out of a number of rebounds, and finished with only 6 of his own. Lee and Harrington had 9 and 14 boards respectively, and worked hard for them.
- Lee also had his offense going, and kept Lopez honest by nailing his mid-range jumpers. That opened up the paint for Lee and others, as big Brookie had to step out to contest the J. That's an under-rated weapon, and it was a pleasure to see Dave score confidently from outside.
- Chris Duhon started attacking the rim, but just couldn't get a roll. He ended up 2-12, but I will say that he was, for the most part, missing the kinds of shots we'd like to see him take. There were more quick drives to the rim and less out-of-rhythm threes. That counts for something, I think. Not a great game, though.
- Danilo Gallinari made a relatively brief appearance today, probably owing to both his still-injured forearm and the recent resurgence of Al Harrington. Gallo was able to make an impact in his 21 minutes, though, with 3 three-pointers and 4 rebounds to his name.
- The Knicks were at their very worst in the second quarter, and it was a little disarming. One would like to think that the main advantage the Knicks have over a team like the Nets is their second unit, but Kiki Vandeweghe's bench thrived against the second-string Knicks. Rafer Alston (3-11) didn't shoot well, but had an easy team finding teammates like Keyon Dooling (4-7) for open shots. The pace quickened in the second, which you would think of as Knick-friendly, but New Jersey actually opened up a double-digit lead for part of the quarter.
- Chris Douglas-Roberts is very talented, very cool, and makes Joey look very wise. I love Gallo and wouldn't change a thing about that draft, but...damn.
- I'm disappointed in Clyde for not rhyming "Dooling" with something.
- This game was especially well mic'd, and we got to hear a lot of the on-court banter, including Al Harrington, after taking a hard fast break foul from Devin Harris, grumbling "I'm never gonna try and dunk again" while being peeled off the floor.
- Mike D'Antoni wielded his zone defense a few times, including in that second quarter in order to stifle the Nets' run. It worked pretty nicely for stretches, as Jared Jeffries or Wilson Chandler was able to roam the middle and help out on Brook Lopez to limit his touches and force other Nets to create offense.
- Al Trautwig casually snuck in a pretty ominous line during the halftime show: "The Knicks are what Chris Duhon is". Yikes.
- The young Garden audience (it was a noon start) spent much of the second half huffing and puffing at Mike D'Antoni's doghouse, begging for Nate Robinson. Chants of "we want Nate!" rained down even as the Knicks pulled away for the win, which leads me to conclude that the majority of New York-area youth don't do what Toney Douglas do just yet. This disappoints me. Weren't you little brats listening?
- In the third quarter, it was Larry Hughes of all people that keyed the run that eventually became the win. Hughes scored 12 in the period, including a personal stretch of 8 straight, and the Nets could never recover. Can't blame them. I've only just recovered.
- The guy who initiates that "I SAY D, YOU SAY FENSE!" chant sounds a lot like Xzibit to me. Since I haven't been to a game in a while, I'm gonna go ahead and assume that the Garden hype guy actually is Xzibit, since that's not at all out of the question, given his other work.
The Knicks have now won three of their last four, and look to add to their recent success tomorrow night against the Blazers. I have to be in class for pretty much the duration of the game (I know, right?), so I'll be in the market for a guest-recapper if anybody's interested. Let me know.