The Knicks aren’t dead yet. Behind a very solid game from Nate Robinson, the Knicks were able to topple the Pistons in a rematch of Saturday’s debacle. This time though it was the Knicks that jumped out to a big first half lead only to have the Pistons stage a furious comeback. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Knicks were faced with a 2 point deficit, having scored just 11 points in the third. The Knicks atoned in the fourth though scoring 31 to the Pistons 21, and finished with the win.
The Knicks built a 57-43 lead in the first half, led by strong play from Wilson Chandler, who attacked the basket aggressively and hit some midrange jumpers. Nate Robinson started his hot streak in the first half and it seemed like one of those games where he might carry the Knicks to victory. I wouldn’t give him all the credit for this win, but he had one of his typical “good” games where it didn’t matter that he missed open teammates at times and took ill advised shots, because today, they went in. He also played decent D. On one play, he even went over a screen (shock!) and drew an offensive foul.
On another night, I might be killing Nate his decision making, which still wasn’t the best, but he didn’t hurt the team today and he deserves some props. He even did a slightly better job sharing the ball today. On one play in the fourth quarter, he came off a nice pick from Al Harrington, turned the corner, and instead of taking a contested lay-up, found a wide open Gallinari for 3. It was a nice play by all three guys involved.
Nate’s good day was a particularly key for the Knicks considering how ineffective Chris Duhon was again. Chris Don’t Du-Nothin’-hon had 0 points in 20 minutes. He did have 5 assists, but also 4 turnovers. If Nate didn’t bring his A-game today the Knicks would have gotten absolutely nothing from their backcourt.
And D’Antoni seems to be noticing that his best players are all forwards. During Saturday’s game, D’Antoni at one point went with a line-up consisting of all forwards. Today, in the fourth quarter, D’Antoni went with four of them plus Nate. It was an interesting look, and why not? Lately Duhon and Hughes have been invisible.
Other game notes:
*David Lee had another all around impressive game, on offense, with 11 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists, and a +12. For those of you keeping track, over the last 5 games, David Lee has averaged 19.4 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. However, Ben Wallace had a throwback night against D. Lee. Wallace went wild for 16 points and 14 rebounds. You can understand Ben Wallace getting 14 rebounds but he should never be lighting you up, especially these days, for 16 points.
*Wallace was giving the Knicks such fits on the glass that in the second half, D’Antoni brought in Jordan Hill to try to shake things up inside. It didn’t really work. Hill, who had an impressive and active first half had a nondescript second half that featured one play where, with a clear path to the ball, instead of fighting to secure the rebound, he inexplicably tipped it forward to Austin Daye under the Knicks’ basket for an easy layup. I still think that Hill deserves to see 7-10 minutes a game. I saw enough out of him in the first half – including a nice outside jumper and a tip in, as well as some activity in the paint – that he should be in the game to develop rather than riding the pine.
*Gallinari proved again to be a big time fourth quarter player. He scored seven straight dagger points in less than 2 minutes about halfway through the final frame, including two big jumpers and a psuedo-slam that really catapulted the Knicks to the win. The Knicks’ lead extended from 4 to 9 during that stretch.
*When the Knicks struggled in the third quarter, I had the distinct feeling that this sustained run of success, easily the longest in recent years, was just a mirage. It seemed like the team was ready to fade out of the playoff race like they did last year with bad losses to Nets and Kings teams in March that they needed to beat. Maybe the Knicks will still let their fans down, but that time hasn’t come yet.
The Knicks currently stand 2.5 games behind Chicago for the last playoff spot. I think they can forget about catching up to the Bobcats, who are looking very impressive these days, having won 7 games in January, including against Miami and Cleveland on the road and against Chicago, Memphis, Houston, San Antonio, Phoenix and Sacramento at home. The Bobcats’ only loss this month? Against the Knicks at MSG.
The Bulls have been playing much better as well of late (7-3 in their last ten, 4 game winning streak). The Knicks’ other main competition, the Bucks, are going in the opposite direction.