Not a bad way to kick off a new year, eh? This will not be a typical recap because this was not a typical game.
In case you missed it, Nate Robinson just stomped the Hawks. In his first game out of the doghouse, Nate threw crisp, decisive assists, boarded like a big man, and stuck his man on defense. Oh, and he scored, too. A bunch. Nate made sweet music from just about everywhere, and most critically, connected in crunchtime. Down the stretch, Robinson was accurate from the arc up to the iron, posting 25 big boy points in the fourth quarter and overtime. A list of individuals who flat-out couldn't hang with Nate isn't hard to find. Nate Robinson was unstoppable tonight. All told, it was 41 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and countless pants soiled.
Now, listen here. Every smartass in New York has an opinion about what just happened. Some are taking tonight's events as evidence that Mike D'Antoni is an obstinate bum for having shelved such an electric talent. Maybe the Knicks could have been better than 8-6 in the last month if Nate got to spin. Others see Nate's explosion as a product of his benching. Nate himself admitted that the visit to the doghouse humbled him. Maybe D'Antoni's a disciplinary genius for finding a way to reach Robinson? Looking back, the last month either lacked Nate Robinson or honed Nate Robinson's professional game. That's if you choose to look back.
I'll tell you who's not looking back: Nate Robinson. Neither is Mike D'Antoni. Nor the rest of the Knicks. Nate Robinson has returned, and all that matters is what's to come. You, me, and D'Antoni knew Nate could take over a game with his scoring. What we saw tonight was competent point guard play, disciplined defense, and a little less preening. With or without the points, Nate Robinson has a place on the Knicks if he brings all of the above. It's all about filling a need, and the Knicks needed a hero tonight. Mission accomplished.
A few other notes, after the jump...
- I can't imagine a more fitting career night for Wilson Chandler than 24, 17, and 4 while Nate was making headlines. Chandler's offense was smooth and in-rhythm, and he got huge on the boards while David Lee struggled. No doubt that Nate was the man tonight, but Wil made a difference as well in his own quiet way.
- Lee struggled indeed, but not for lack of effort. Al Horford's a big, scary kid.
- The organist at Philips Arena is a goddamn beast. We're talking about minute-long renditions of everything from oldies to top-40 hits that stand up to the originals without fail.
- This one's for stingy: Chris Duhon has stepped up his game lately, but Robinson made him look like a gosh darned mope tonight. Nate did absolutely everything better than Du did.
- The Hawks missed oodles of open threes tonight. Just saying. Don't yell at me.
- Marcus Landry, y'all! Marcus snuck onto the court behind Robinson and had a few rebounds and a very fancy and-one in five minutes.
- Other than that, it was really a 7-man rotation. Larry Hughes and Jonathan Bender both sat with sore body parts.
- The Hawks announcers (one of whom is Dominique Wilkins) certainly aren't homers, but it really bugs me when commentators call the players by their first names.
- Relatively quiet game for Danilo Gallinari (13 and 6), but he hit some big, big shots in the second half.
- The Knicks played a startlingly effective zone in the fourth quarter and overtime. Credit Jared Jeffries with filling the middle of the zone and doing the talking to make the whole thing work.
And that is all. It's just one game, but you can be damn certain it was Nate Robinson's game. The Knicks are back in action on Sunday against the Pacers.
Happy New Year, friends.