The last time the New York Knicks were invited to participate in a nationally televised game on TNT was Nov. 29, 2007. Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry and company were dispatched to Boston to play the new-look Celtics featuring Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.
Isiah Thomas' Knickerbockers were debacled. Thoroughly. ESPN.com's game story referred to the 104-59 defeat as a "colossal romp" in the headline. TNT analyst Kenny Smith eloquently summed up the morale-sapping loss during the broadcast: "I've never seen anyone get beat at darts this bad."
The Celtics led 54-31 at the half and 82-41 after three quarters. The malaise and impotence of that performance in Boston is, for me at least, the nadir of the Isiah Thomas Era. Or at least one of several potential nadirs. Although can a nadir exist in a time or space with no zenith? If not, then this was just another crappy game in the middle of a few crappy seasons.
Well, last night the Knicks were back on TNT, and they were on the road playing another Eastern Conference blue blood, the Chicago Bulls. And, mercifully, things went much better for the guys in blue and orange. The Knicks blew through the Windy City raining down threes en route to a 120-112 triumph that wasn't as close as the score indicates.
Amar'e scored eight of the Knicks first 11 points, showing how reliable his midrange jumper has really become. Last season, Knicks fans rightfully lauded David Lee for adding this to his repertoire, and Amar'e has it as well. In years 3 through 5 of his contract I'd have to imagine this shot becomes more and more integral to his game. But STAT was not the story tonight. It was the ignition of Danilo Gallinari and the explosion of Toney Douglas, who scored a career-high 30.
Gallo took over the reins of the offense from Amar'e closing in on the halfway point of the first quarter when he hit his first three seemingly since the team returned from Milan, staking the Knicks to an early 14-13 lead. He scored the next New York hoop on a dunk and was altogether unleashed for the first time this season.
Perhaps it was the relief of seeing the team's ace marksman finally find the goal or perhaps it was just the fresh legs from having one less game this week, but all of a sudden everyone was hitting deep jumpers. Douglas, Ray Felton and Billy Walker were pouring them right through to the half when they lead 70-52.
Although Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng closed the gap to a mere 10 points by the end of the third period, this game was a formality. Now, that doesn't mean Knicks fans weren't sweating it out on their couches. But it had the look and the feel of cotton a walkthrough that everyone in the building knew was DOA when the teams came out after the half. Former Knicks assistant coach and Celtic defensive guru Tom Thibodeau, who is in his first year as the head coach in Chicago, even benched his starters for the endgame. After years of watching dejected Knicks watching the closing minutes of a dispiriting loss, it was gratifying for the shoe to be on the other foot. The only thing that could have made this ending more appropriate was if Eddy Curry could have been in street clothes on their bench instead of ours.