Friday night, David Lee missed his first game of the season due to a sore right knee. What made it hurt as much for fans as it did for him is the fact that he inexplicably played 40+ minutes in the previous game even though we were getting blown away by the Celtics. However, in the continuing saga of a bizarre season where nothing makes sense: we won. What made the win against the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers even more unlikely? Our second (or third?) best player, Wilson Chandler, missed the game again due to injury (at this point it’s possible Wil might not return this season). Throw in that our fourth best player, Tracy McGrady went 0-for-7 in 29 minutes. Gently stir and mix in that our replacement starting center, Jonathan Bender, left the game when he broke a finger on his left hand in the first half (which’ll cause him to miss the rest of the season).
Yup, East is West, Black is White, Up is Down. I’m pretty darn good at math, but I can’t figure out the calculus of how we won this thing. You figure, well, Al Harrington must’ve had one of those nights when he exploded. Nope, the dude played 40 minutes, yet only tossed in 11 points on a pathetic 25% field-goal shooting. We came into the fourth quarter trailing. We’d been down as much as 12 points. The Sixers, who killed us on the boards in the last game (as most teams do), even had their point guard snag 8 rebounds — yet somehow they lost the battle of the boards by a sizable 13 of ‘em! It’s like this game took place in Bizarro World or something. In a bit of nostalgia, Coach Mike D’Antoni played Chris Duhon an astounding 31 minutes. In a ton of normalcy, Duhon responded with three points on 20% shooting and not a single assist. Nice to see some things don’t change. EVER.
The big initial story, was the play of our second (or third?) best player: Danilo Gallinari. Gallo came out aggressive, shooting and driving, getting to the free-throw line as frequently as if it was free Garlic Bread Twist night at The Olive Garden. He disappeared down the stretch a bit, and that was when it become Toney Douglas’ chance to shine again. Toney Tone’s had some big fourth quarters for the Knicks lately. I think a big part of it is that he’s much better as a scoring guard than a point guard. Early on, he feels like he needs to set others up and get them going. However, when it’s late in the game he can just look for his own shot and be more aggressive. On Friday, that helped bring us a win. On Sunday, that helped bring about a loss.
While Douglas did have two big turnovers at the end of our Houston game, ya can’t paint all the blame on him. Tracy McGrady, wanting to show up his former team who he felt disrespected him, actually asked to come in for the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. He responded by going 0-for-3, all of them poor shot attempts. The Rockets, on the other hand, used their spoils from that trade (Jordan Hill and Jared Jeffries) to successfully pull out the win in the end. Adding to the irony of defeat by our former players, don’t forget that their closing line-up actually featured a third ex-Knick, Trevor Ariza.
The sad thing is that Jeffries hasn’t even been able to get off the bench in recent games for the Rockets, but to shove it in our face he was out there at the end and drew like four charges to steal the lead. As if that didn’t make us look stupid enough, D’Antoni, never one to own up to his mistakes, had the appalling lack of class to say before the game that he didn’t play Hill much when he was here because he doesn’t play “bad rookies.” Poor Jordan was literally speechless for a moment after the game when he finally heard what his former coach had said. It’s not often you get thrown under the bus and backed over several times, when you’re no longer even on the frickin’ team.
In only 25 minutes, Hill scored a solid 13 points on 50% shooting, adding 5 rebounds, and leading both teams in plus/minus differential with a darn impressive +24. Two of the next three with the highest plus/minus were Jeffries and Ariza. Usually when I say it was the Knicks’ own players who lost the game, I don’t mean the ones we gave away.
Topics: 76ers, Al Harrington, Boston Celtics, Chris Duhon, Coach Mike D'Antoni, Danilo Gallinari, David Lee, Houston Rockets, Jared Jeffries, Jonathan Bender, Jordan Hill, Philadelphia Sixers, The Olive Garden, Toney Douglas, Tracy McGrady, Trevor Ariza, Wilson Chandler