If this Knicks' season wasn't lost and if the team hadn't struggled so mightily to beat even the lowly Nets then last night's win over the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks would have been the sort of thing that I would have gotten awfully excited about. If the Knicks were a few games under .500 rather than on pace for more than 50 losses then I'd be touting this win as the one that signalled their intentions on the eighth seed in the East. But the Knicks aren't going to accomplish anything this year. So, I'm not sure how much time to spend on this one game.
Does it matter that Danilo Gallinari went off for 27 points and played with a rarely seen aggression on both ends of the floor? That he opened the scoring with a dunk and never eased off the gas pedal on offense, while playing very respectable defense against Joe Johnson? Does it matter that David Lee went for 19 and 13 and once again got the better of fellow Florida Gator Al Horford? Does it matter that Toney Douglas got 24 minutes of run and racked up 11 points and 3 assists? Or that Wilson Chandler blocked Josh Smith's potential game-winning shot at the rack just moments before time expired?
I'm not sure if any of it is meanginful. Or how to weigh these promising performances against the many, many disconcerting events of the season. I'd like to think that the play of Gallo, Chandler and Douglas bodes well for the future since they are 3 of the 4 players with contracts extending beyond this season. I'm most pleased by Gallo's assertiveness and Chandler's athletic block. Both of these players can be limited by their passivity and need to become more mindful of their ability to impact every possession in a game.
Putting aside the search for significance in the victory, it was a heck of a finish. As soon as Jamal Crawford crossed the equator on that last possession I said aloud that the Knicks were about to lose. The come-from-ahead loss has been a dispiriting staple of this season and I thought I saw it coming. But then Chandler rose up and defended his goal.
After splitting a season series with the Nets, the Knicks have now taken a season series off the Hawks. Kelly Dwyer at Yahoo sees the Knicks' coterie of outside players as the reason that they match up so well with Atlanta. I buy that. Although I also think that the presence of Crawford on the team, Al Harrington's history in Atlanta, Lee's relationship with Horford and D'Antoni's relationship with Johnson all conspire to bring out the best in New York. The Knicks are a team that seems to lack internal motivation and this particular matchup seems to bring out their best in ways that few others do.