Wednesday, December 23, 2009

David Lee is.... The Closer

For the second time during the Knicks' current homestand, with the game hanging in the balance and all the momentum with the road team, David Lee netted the game-altering bucket. This past Friday with past (and future?) Knickerbocker Marcus Camby and the Los Angeles Clippers making their lone pilgrimage to the Mecca, Lee tipped an Al Harrington miss to himself before tipping the ball into the hoop with 30 ticks to play. This bucket edged the home team in front by a lone point, 92-91. Prior to that make it looked like the Knicks' third quarter blitz would account for nothing thanks to their first quarter bed wetting. The fourth frame had been tight, with L.A. seemingly wresting back control of the game in the last few minutes. When Harrington's midrange shot clanged off the rim the game looked lost. At least, it did to me and my youngest brother sitting in the 300-level in a pair of aisle seats that we were not ticketed for. But then Lee, despite having poor position, got a hand on the carom. And then another to nose his side across the finish line and send the patrons out onto Seventh Avenue in high spirits (and not just because we'd ended up more intoxicated then we'd anticipated after twin beer towers at Fat Annie's Truck Stop on 32nd before the game).

Following another home dance with Larry Brown's Charlotte Bobcats -- during which noted hair product connoisseur Danilo Gallinari of the Mialnese Gallinaris conjured the game-winning plays (free throws made and a block to compensate for free throws missed) in the climatic scenes -- another game needed to be sloted into the W column by the Knicks' closer. After running out to an early, seemingly insurmountable lead over Chicago at home last night in the first half, coach Mike D'Antoni's charges found themselves surmounted in the second half. Playing the second of a back-to-back set, the Bulls shook off their early-game stupor and came charging back into contention in the third quarter. The Knicks fled like tourists in Pamplona before the onrushing beasts. After trailing, 53-31, at the intermission, Chicago pulled within 79-80 with 1:40 left on Joakim Noah jumper. Coach D'Antoni immediately called a timeout. Out of that timeout, Chris Duhon immediately missed a layup. And, the team seemed trampled and impaled on the roadside.

But then Lee drew a shooting foul on Noah, something he seems particularly adept at when playing young Gators (and therefore Bulls and Hawks), then sunk both free throws and the Knicks were ahead by three, 82-79. At this point, both teams seemed to lose the plot when the stakes were raised at the risk of losing the game. Coming out of timeout, following two missed free throws by Jared Jeffries, the Bulls had the ball, down by three and with just under half a minute to play, the experiences of the past decade of Knicks basketball one to believe that someone was going to sink a corner three to send this game to overtime. But Derrick Rose turned the ball over. D'Antoni called a 20. Gallo entered the game for Jeffries, spreading the floor. And then Lee hit that 17-footer that All-Star power forwards David West and Carlos Boozer regularly make to ice the game with five ticks yet to come off the clock. Inside and outside, Lee has gotten the crucial buckets during this homestand.

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