Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pride Comes Before the ... Break

After a sprained toe forced Amar'e Stoudemire to sit out the Knicks' road win over the Nets at the Rock on Saturday night, STAT returned to practice on Tuesday with strong words for his club's next opponent: the Atlanta Hawks.

The last time that the Knicks and Hawks linked arms on the dance floor a few weeks back, things got ugly in the waning moments as the Knicks three-point shooting enforcer Shawne Williams exchanged a few haymakers with Atlanta's Marvin Williams. During that game, Amar'e apparently took exception to some of the antics of Hawks pivot Al Horford.
"I told you before he doesn't want to see me, man. Horford, I watched him play in Florida and I've seen him play a few years in Atlanta. We have two different games. We'll see how it plays out [Wednesday].

"He feels good. His team was winning. He had a couple baskets. He hit a couple jump shots. But he felt good. He felt like he was doing something.

"But welcome to New York."
True to his words, the Knicks were less than cordial hosts last night as they powered their way to a 102-90 win. The home team was feisty, fiery and aggressive throughout the game. They repeatedly took the ball into the paint (and made a ton of floating runners once there) and committed a few hard fouls when the Hawks tried to do the same. Befitting their contentious stance, the Knicks donned Oakley-era throwback uniforms when they took the floor. All that was missing from their mid-1990s masque was the mustaches.

Although Horford and Amar'e will be teammates on the Eastern Conference All-Star team at the weekend there was clearly no love lost between the pair as they each labored to dunk over the other throughout the game. Both had their moments, but Amar'e had more of them, finishing with 23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks while Horford had a (for him) pedestrian 12 points and 11 boards.

While the Hawks relied on three-point shots to keep them within hailing distance, the Knicks got production up and down the lineup, notably a stellar effort by Wilson Chandler off the bench. Still it was Stoudemire's ornery oratory from Tuesday that defined the performance. For once, the Knicks produced four quarters of prideful, pressing basketball. They didn't surrender a 30-point quarter or settle only for deep jumpers. They took the game to their opponents, all night long. Lionel Richie would have been proud. Needless to say, everyone in the Garden was. Fans even booed down a late "We Want Melo" chant emanating from the 400 level.

I watched the conclusion of this game with my grandfather. I turned to him and remarked, "This Amar'e guy is pretty good. Ain't he?"

"Yeah. He's special. And he wants to be here," he replied definitely.

Welcome to New York, indeed.