For whatever reason, the Knicks have owned the Hawks this year. New York moved to 3-0 against one of the East's best clubs tonight with a close win that was sealed by-- wait for it-- defense in the final seconds. After a couple weeks of tinkering, Mike D'Antoni's rotation and the Knicks' distribution of shots were a little more in line with what you'd expect from a doomed team with some promising talent. Notes on that and more, after the jump...
- Let's start at the end. The Knicks, who had been hot all game long, got typically reckless in crunchtime, and all but blew a 10-point lead by stumbling through the final five minutes. It came down to the Knicks having the ball with a little more than a shot clock remaining and the Knicks up 1. Toney Douglas drove towards the basket, had the ball knocked away (if you watch the replay, Josh Smith took a pretty meaty swing at Toney's arm, but whatever), and the Hawks ran the other way for a final attempt. Jamal Crawford scampered into the middle and drew David Lee's attention, which freed Josh Smith for a backdoor cut. Crawford fed Smith the rock and he rose up for the game-winning dun--SMASH! Wilson Chandler saved the day with a perfectly timed stonewall of Smith's dunk. Wil met him at the apex, jarring the ball loose. Al Horford got his hands on the rebound, but his putback attempt was revealed by replay to be well after the buzzer. Game over.
- Until the closing minutes, Danilo Gallinari was the game's star. Gallo fully tossed aside his hesitancy and led the offense to the promised land. He demanded the rock when matched up with little kids like Mike Bibby and directed traffic with the ball in his hands (Seriously. He screamed at Toney Douglas to clear out at one point.). Danilo was aggressive from the opening tip, but it didn't hurt that The Cock was strokin' it from outside, canning 4 of his 5 threes. All told, 27 points on 9-14 shooting, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and pretty dogged defense on Marvin Williams is a pretty nice return to form from our beloved youngster.
- Speaking of beloved youngsters, Toney Douglas finally got to spin in earnest, and didn't disappoint in his 23 minutes. Toney's still given to missing his cutter or dribbling into traffic, but his point guard play looked relatively sharp. Douglas looked for his own shot when necessary, but also made a couple sweet dishes, including a gorgeous bullet of a feed to find Al Harrington under the rim in the fourth quarter. I also got semi-hard for an incredibly difficult finish in a 2 or 3-on-1 fast break situation. Meanwhile, Chandler's block might've saved Toney from being the goat in this one, but I maintain that the rook got fouled on the final possession. Yes, I am biased. I won't budge. Whatever you thought of that final possession, Toney Douglas did what Toney Douglas do, and I think we can expect more from him as the season winds down.
- Al Harrington was undoubtedly the force that pulled the ball out of Danilo Gallinari's hands in the fourth quarter, but he at least hit a big jumper to put the Knicks up 3 with less than a minute remaining.
- Mike D'Antoni rolled out his zone defense for significant stretches of this one. With Jared Jeffries long gone, the roaming middle of the zone was anchored by Harrington, Gallinari, or Chandler. The scrambling D did a pretty decent job of keeping Atlanta out of the paint, and some combination of decent closing out and incredible luck held the Hawks to 3-17 shooting from outside.
- In addition to luck and good defense, all three-pointers that the Hawks missed from the right side in the second half can be attributed to Eddie House standing up from the bench and barking at shooters.
- Sergio Rodriguez split time with Douglas and continued to force some passes (6 turnovers in 23 minutes is less than ideal), but I will give the Inqusition credit for making good use of the considerable speed advantage he holds over Mike Bibby. The muppet simply couldn't hang with Sergio's drives to the rack.
- Clyde's usual trouble pronouncing "Horford" didn't go unnoticed, but I was particularly intrigued by his occasional utterance of the phrase "pornt guard", which I hadn't picked up on before.
- Tracy McGrady did not play.
- Mike Breen revealed that he loved Jethro Tull growing up, which kind of surprised me.
- Toney Douglas played well into the fourth quarter, then was subbed out for Eddie House with just under 4 minutes remaining, only to return at 1:41. I cannot explain this move, but it seems to have worked.
- House's beard, meanwhile, is not gone. It just got shorter. Don't fret.
- Bill Walker was totally silent after scoring 8 points on two threes and a double-clutch dunk in the first quarter. I literally forgot he existed until I noticed that my post-game puddle of drool was unusually small.
- If I had to pick one NBA player to chew through a rope, it would be Maurice Evans. He seems to have a very muscular head, which leads me to believe that he's got a mighty bite.
- We were reminded that this season will be the first in Jamal Crawford's career in which he makes it to the postseason. I'm very excited for Crawford to get ridiculous against some hapless playoff opponent (I could see him replicating Ben Gordon's performance against the Celtics last year), but at the same time, his performance tonight (5-16) didn't exactly make me miss his offense, four-point play notwithstanding. No matter what, though, I'll always have a soft place in my heart for Jamal Crawford. Like I've said before, it's soft because I love him, but also soft because his years as a Knick probably weakened my aorta.
- I always thought the referees were out of bounds, but after Eddie House banked a pass to Toney Douglas off an official, I learned that they're totally inbounds. This should probably be incorporated into a player's offensive repertoire. Like, if you're driving up the sideline, you could bounce the ball of a ref's chest, spin by your man, then catch it with a clear lane to the basket. I will build an entire NBA offense off of this marginal rule and become a legend.
- Tonight's comment-headline comes from FreeBradshaw, because I think each of us might've lost control for a second at the end there. It happens to the best of us.
That is all, lizards. If you were in the suite tonight, I'd love to hear about what the Garden experience was like. The Knicks are back in action on Wednesday. We'll talk before then. Love is love is love.