Felton & Stoudemire, The Knicks Can't Miss Combo!
Ray Felton, who seems hell bent on precluding any notion of a Knicks loss in the near to middling future, hit just about every kind of shot from every imaginable angle en route to 20 first half points.
The somewhat less than classic D'Antoni speedball act was punctuated in full by a screaming Landry Fields slam back off a Knicks miss on the break where it literally appeared as if his head, shoulders and even waistline were well above the rim.
On the Toronto side, Andrea Bargnani facilitated the early Raptor lead with hot shooting from deep that resulted in 19 first half points. He opened the second half with another long two (hot all night, Bargnani finished with a career high 41), and from there the Eastern Division rivals played some spotty up an down basketball, trading small leads.
The third quarter ended with the teams tied at 84.
But the Knicks won it in the fourth, albeit in this case, by the slightest of margins: Gallinari hit a three, Amare Stoudemire scored down low and the Knicks went up five, 98-93.
Bargnani came back with a conventional three to cut the New York lead to two. Another Stoudemire jumper and the lead was 100-96. With 4:45 on the clock, Landry Fields busted another spectacular high flying drive and the lead was six, 102-96.
Toronto battled back, and with two minutes remaining, they tied the game at 104. Stoudemire rushed the bucket for a deuce, giving him 30 on the night, finishing with 34 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, his sixth straight 30 plus game with 18 of the 34 coming in the fourth quarter, and the Knicks were back up by two.
The resilient Bargnani hit a free throw and the lead was down to one. Stoudemire came back with a jumper, Bargnani a sweet little move for two down low. Stoudemire another jumper in the lane and the lead was three with under a minute to go.
A five second inbounds violation for Toronto seemed to be a backbreaker, but Gallinari missed a three and Bargnani, still on fire, hit a three of his own tying the game at 110.
The Knicks got the ball back with 27 seconds to go and Felton (28 points, 11 assists) dribbled the ticker down and with about five seconds left on the game clock, finally threw up a three ball, which bounded up off the rim, came down, spun around for a perilous moment and finally dropped in with 2.7 seconds to go.
From there, Andrea Bargnani finally met a shot not to his liking, his 40 foot toss fell well short of the rim at the closing buzzer, and the Knicks had slipped away with a thrilling 113-110 victory.
So the run is up to six, (consecutive wins), 11 of 12. The Knicks are 14-9 and in some ways, it almost seems like magic.
In the course of a single offseason, the New Yorkers, for more than a decade one of the most maddeningly un-athletic teams in the league, suddenly find their roster bejeweled with an impressive mix of penetrators, finishers, shot blockers and shooters.
They're playing with their heads too, moving the ball and seeking the open man. It's supposed to be new school D'Antoni basketball but it has it's roots in another time period—when Red Holzman coached a Knick five that included Walt Frazier, Dick Barnett, (later Earl The Pearl), Willis Reed and Double D Dave DeBuscherre.
That team was always in motion, moving the ball with alacrity. And when they stalled, the savvy Garden crowd demanded the quintet get their gear on. As if on cue, (former Princeton legend and future New Jersey Senator) Bill Bradley would hit it in those old canvas Converse, the ball would swing as if it had eyes of its own, ever finding just the open spot and more often than not, that superb New York Knicks team, a unit this city truly loved, emerged victorious.
(NBA titles in '69 & '73, The Great Basketball Mecca hasn't seen one since.)
It's funny—when these 2010 Knicks stagnate, you hear Clyde, from his current position as ever rhyming Knick color-man, urge them to move.
What he knew back in his days as a player he knows well now: Teams don't win standing around the three point circle watching a single teammate maneuver. It takes a unit in motion, heady play from your point doesn't hurt, shooting the lights out is definitely icing on the cake.
Combine that with a considerably improved defense, an ability to rebound and block shots and this Knick team appears to be on a road to somewhere. How far they get is essentially up to them.
The team finally has a wealth of talent. What's more is they seem to have finally figured that out for themselves.
14-9 and counting.
That's it for tonight,