Knicks Come Back in 4th, Top Rockets, 104-98
Now, that is a win. A come-from-behind home win against a playoff-bound team from the Western Conference. It's true that the Rockets didn't have Yao. But they did have Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest. And, while the Rockets are a different team (more 3's, less dunks) without Yao they are still a very good team without him. They experienced half of a 22-game winning streak without Yao last season. And, they didn't come out feeling sorry for themselves last night as their first-choice center sat with a sore knee.
When asked after the game about his team's resolve, Nate informed an MSG reporter that the Knicks "are a tough bunch of dudes" and that he wasn't surprised by the come-back win. I'd like to think that I root for a tough bunch of dudes. Again. The hallmarks of my most beloved teams was toughness. Putting aside questions of toughness, though, last night marks the first time the Knicks have won a game when trailing heading into the fourth quarter. 21 times the Knickerbockers have headed into the fourth quarter trailing before last night. And, they have lost each of those games. The Knicks were the only team in the league to have never come back in the fourth. have been unable to overtake teams because a) they had dug themselves too deep a hole or because b) they have possessed the lesser amount poise in games that were close. Last night, they didn't let themselves fall too far behind at any point and they displayed the greater poise down the stretch. They did it on defense. They did it on offense. They got the must-have hoops. And they did it at the free throw line.
Thoughts, Observations and Things Better Left Unsaid
-The Knicks are now 13-9 at the Garden. They've won four in a row at home. Looking back, the re-arrival of Danilo Gallinari seems to have catalyzed the home court advantage. The team has enough players to go hard for 48 minutes and the fans are fully into it. The DEE-FENSE chants were loud even on television last night down the stretch. I'd say that the signs of Gallo's viability as a pro have renewed some faith in management and reinvigorated the short-term enthusiasm for the team among fans. With Atlanta, Los Angeles (Lakers), Cleveland and Boston coming to town in the next 10 days it's high-time to try to develop a legit home-court advantage. Of course, it's also possible that the very real home-court advantage that we've been creating gets snuffed out by the class of the Association before it has a chance to mature.
-The Knicks didn't win this game with the 3. In fact, the Rockets hit more three-point shots than the Knicks. When winning (with Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph) meant sprinting to 120 points then the Knicks relied excessively on shots from beyond the arc. This made the team dangerous but inconsistent. The emerging go-to-ness of the high pick and roll with Lee and Chris Duhon's confidence in attacking the rim when the team needs a hoop have made the three less of a necessity. Which makes the Knicks a better team.
-With 17 and 13 last night, David Lee has now tied Dwight Howard for the league lead in double-doubles. By virtue of this accomplishment he should be the second-string center for the East in the fast-approaching All-Star Game. I'm of two minds about this.
-Wilson Chandler was a revelation off the bench. After recently seeming as confused on the floor as W Bush likely would be playing a game of RISK, Chandler exploded for 18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and a block shot after being "relegated" to the bench. I say "relegated" rather than relegated because Chandler played 28 minutes, which was one more than Al Harrington, who moved into the starting lineup. Coming off the bench seemed to enervate Chandler and keep him fresh (perhaps more mentally than physically) late in the game. It was a Chandler three-pointer that gave the Knicks the lead for good with just under two and a half to play. He seems as meek as he does muscular and I can't help but applaud the early returns on D'Antoni's handling of his mini-slump.
-The big three that Will hit to put the Knicks ahead was brought to you by the letter N. For Nate. Robinson led the Knicks with 19 points in the game and also had a team high +13 in terms of point differential when he was on the court. Nate scored 14 of his 19 in the fourth quarter and was the real difference maker even if Chandler's performance was more impressive. Nate the Great stepped up in the middle goings of the final frame and did everything that Tracy McGrady good do but did it better. This guy plays himself into and out of the future with equal aplomb.
-Tim Thomas is really impressing me. I'm not ready to quantify those emotions just yet. But soon.
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