Knicks Blow Out Phoenix In Shocker

Published on: 2nd December, 2009

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New York – In this, the Knicks 18th game of their season, they may have finally discovered the formula to be the kind of team Mike D’Antoni visualized all along.

Tonight, all the practices and blackboard chalk talks D’Antoni’s been using to try to convey to this seemingly mismatched  squad how to play in his proven style finally came to fruition against the team with the best record in the N.B.A. (14-3) as the Knicks blew out the Phoenix Suns, 126-99, in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score would indicate.

In front of a sellout (19,763) crowd, we discovered this about these Knicks. If they can execute crisp ball movement, help each other on defense, set good picks and make tight cuts off of those picks, get Danilo Gallinari kick-started early in the game, and most of all, score 71 points in the first halves of games, they have an excellent chance to win a lot more.

“Tonight gives us a bench mark that we need to stick to now, of how we need to play defensively, and how we want to run our offense,” said David Lee, one of six Knicks to score in double figures with 24 points. “I thought our pace was really good and we didn’t rush just to be a fast break team.”

Gallinari had his best all-around game of the season, scoring 27 while pulling down a season-high 10 rebounds. He also blocked two shots and had six three pointers. The second-year player, who is essentially a rookie since he missed most of his freshman campaign after back surgery, seems to be gaining confidence on a daily basis. D’Antoni was duly impressed.

“He was aggressive, he rebounded and blocked shots,” said D’Antoni. “That’s the kind of guy we envisioned and need, and he’ll get there. We have to understand he’s 21 years old so we have to have a little patience.”

The Knicks had to be especially focused on the defensive end against the Suns, who average 112 points per game and learned most of their offensive sets from D’Antoni from his time as their head coach for so many years. The Knicks stepped it up, compiling 12 steals and 7 blocked shots.

“If you are looking at their plays, it’s the same offense we run,” said Gallinari. “So we knew they have the same options we do. We knew we had to come out and run back on defense because like us, they run a lot.”

Whether it was a matter of the Suns simply having a flat night or the Knicks defensive prowess, the high-scoring Suns were held under 100 points for the first time this season.

It was the Knicks most impressive win of the year, one that garnered several ovations from Knicks fans, a rarity over the past several years and so indicative of how starving the fans of this franchise are for a winning entity in this building.

Larry Hughes set the tone in the first quarter with 8 assists but it was Gallinari who got the fans on their feet with his long-range shooting. In the first half alone, Gallo hit for 20 points, including 4 of 5 from three-point land. The Knicks were swinging the ball around crisply and sharply, getting open looks for everyone. It led to 55% shooting from the floor in the half as they put up a season-high 71 points on the first place Suns.

If one didn’t know better, watching Phoenix play defense tonight was like watching the Knicks play defense for most of the past year. Wonder why. Let’s go to the coach.

“If we can bottle this up,” D’Antoni said. “We just caught them on one of those nights when they’re flat. It just happens sometimes. We played good. I’m happy.” 

D’Antoni understands though, it’s only one night, one game.

“Does this mean anything?” he asked. “We’ll see going down the road. But, we’ll just try and keep it that way.”

The Knicks continued their amazing run in the third quarter, outscoring the Suns 29-18 to up their lead to 24 points, 100-76.

“We sustained it throughout the game,” said Chris Duhon. “Usually when we get up on a team, we relax and let them come back in the game and the third quarters have been really tough for us. We came out in the early parts of the third quarter and were able to build a big enough lead.”

Maybe Phoenix, on a four game winning streak coming into the game and playing their third game of a four game road trip, were looking ahead to their game tomorrow night against LeBron James and the Cavaliers or maybe, they enjoyed their night in New York City last night but whatever the reason, they were being outhustled and outscraped by the Knicks all night.

No matter to the Knicks. They were ecstatic to beat a quality team.

“It is so important for us, especially mentally, to beat a good team,” Gallinari said. “Playing and beating Phoenix is just great for us. We’ve been playing pretty good against the top teams in the league and losing so this is great.”

What has become increasingly clear to the Knicks is the importance of getting their young gunner, Gallinari, early looks at the basket. It seems to affect how the rest of his game plays out.

“Gallo got a couple of easy baskets, a couple of layups, a couple of put backs early on,” said Duhon. “He’s a guy that once he gets hot, he could shoot it from anywhere. He started feeling it, that led to him making a some incredible defensive plays for us. We have to continue to find a way to get him going cause when he’s going, he plays well all over.”

“He did it all over for us. He blocked some key shots, made some big rebounds in traffic, and obviously, how he shoots the basketball, he did a great job for us. When he plays like that, he makes it a lot easier for everyone else.”

 D’Antoni has been searching for ways to make it easier for everyone since he took this job. Little did he know, the answer may come in the form of a 6’10” stringbean with a pure stroke.

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