"We didn't want to be that team, obviously with them being a team that's right across the river. We were really focusing and not having a letdown. Hopefully we can grow from here." -- Al Harrington
"It looked like we won. That's all I care about." -- Mike D'Antoni
The Knicks, spurred by fear of being castigated and possibly castrated for losing to the worst team in the NBA, found enough mojo to preserve a win against the win-less Nets. For a moment, after the Nets reduced a 14-point deficit to 4 points with seconds remaining, it appeared that the Knicks would fall into infamy and embarrassment.
The Nets certainly viewed this as an opportunity to steal a victory, so much so that Devin Harris played his first game of the season with reckless abandon, diving into players and fans in an effort to spark his team. But the Nets could not overcome the aggressiveness of the Knicks offense, their own putrid three point shooting and the foul woes of Brooke Lopez who they have no idea how to exploit under Lawrence Frank. In other words, they were worst than the Knicks.
Jersey boy Al Harrington (17 points, 18 rebounds and 1 very nice steal in 32 minutes) and his teammates were focused on not losing to their bottom-starving neighbors. It was Harrington's three pointer with .59 seconds remaining that pushed a two shot lead up to seven points and sealed the victory. Even poster boy Danilo Gallinari showed up and showed off some shooting acumen despite two air-balls. Gallo scored 17 points and hauled in 4 rebounds in 26 minutes. Most significantly, he was more active on offense and did not hit only set shots a day after he was exhibiting some back problems.
Overall, six Knicks, including the five starters, scored in double figures. Duhon had a decent game (11 points, five rebounds and 8 assists) while Hughes (13 points, six boards, three assists and 2 steals) seemed to set the pace for the team. Eddie Curry's twelve minutes simply reminded us that he has a long way to go to be in full-court shape. D'Antoni went 10 deep handing DNPs to Darko and JHill, but his rotations seemed inconsistent and unsettled still. The positive sign was that he changed the units late in the game before the lead evaporated to secure the victory.
The win for the was also important for the franchise since a loss would have highlighted the Knicks continual failure to upgrade the talent and management's inability to successfully camouflage the pretense that the team intends to give the fans a decent product at any point this year. Many fans, and the press, are dismayed that the Knicks passed on adding Allen Iverson to the roster, although such an addition would have been an official surrender of the season and an admission of managerial failure. The main target of the disappointment and derision is aimed at the target on James Dolan's back. However, the extended honeymoons granted Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni are coming to an end as the transactional hits, misses, starts and stalls surmount. Each loss is confirmation that the losing culture at MSG is still smotheringly present.
In news having absolutely nothing to do with the win, but everything to do with how tight and tense things are in the Knicks camp, Nate Robinson found himself in the position of being portrayed as the class clown again. Nate, seemingly unconscious about the scrutiny he is under, continues to feed his critics the ammunition needed to make him the new poster of media hate. This time as the buzzer sounded to end the first quarter Nate shot the ball into the opposing team's basket (see video below). No harm, no foul right. Not so. D'Antoni thought it was too close for comfort and instead of giving Nate the benefit of the doubt or ignoring the meaningless shot, D'Antoni lit into Nate who only got six minutes of playing time. D'Antoni's reaction may be understandable because in real time it was a little close to the buzzer and on another level it is a reflection of the Knicks level of seriousness about the situation they find themselves in. Still, unless the leader, D'Antoni, has instructed his team to carry themselves with a false facade of gravity as opposed to remaining loose the toss was an insignificant playground move unless you want to blame Robinson for the team's lack of leadership and maturity.
It is probably time for Nate to go. He will never be appreciated in New York and he will find himself further blamed for this fiasco and diminished by the writers and fans. Like Crawford, he can be a contributor on a good team with a coach that knows how to take advantage of his talents. Here he is being wasted. This is a good steal for a playoff hopeful and will allow Walsh to look like he is making a significant move. The only problem is that those who watch the game in person know that Nate is one of the few players who hustles and gives his all with consistency.
Next up, the Knicks face the Boston Celtics, who are coming off a loss to the Magic and some questions about the level of energy they bring to the start of games. The Knicks can expect a tough defensive battle from their divisional rivals who are as interested in losing to them as they were in losing to the Nets.