Knicks Defeat Heat In Front Of Star-Studded MSG Crowd

Published on: 28th January, 2011

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New York – Tonight was exactly what the NBA has longed for over the past decade of futility that has marked the play of the  New York Knicks. It was a matchup of two Eastern Conference rivals, each representing big media markets. David Stern’s favorite team, the Knicks of New York City and the South Beach Heat from Miami. Both cities and teams where the hipster set love to go to the games because the teams are great and it’s just……cool to be seen there.

The celebrities were out in droves tonight, including Howard Stern, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Donald Trump, Magic Johnson, Carrie Underwood, Tracy Morgan, and old Knicks regulars, Spike Lee and Woody Allen to watch one of the most exciting games of this or any other basketball season as the hometown Knicks defeated the Heat, 93-88 in a game that had the decibel levels of Madison Square Garden approaching eardrum-popping proportions. 

This was a game that had a little bit of everything, including superstars making unbelievable baskets or passes, role players hitting the key shots in crunch time,  and the crowd on its feet throughout.

Such was the case at Madison Square Garden tonight as NBA royalty LeBron James and Dwyane Wade led their Heat into New York to face off against the Knicks, an up and coming team that had been playing spotty basketball of late, having lost six of their past eight games.

When it was over, and the Knicks were winners behind a furious fourth quarter blitz in which they outscored the Heat, 29-15, you knew you had been to one of those rare happenings in sports that don’t occur with frequency. Behind Amar’e Stoudmire’s 24 points and Landry Fields, the cool customer Stanford rookie who calmly put in 19 points to go along with 13 rebounds from his guard position, the Knicks upped their record to 24-21 while the Heat dropped to 31-14.

The key points in the game came in the final minutes when, with the the Heat ahead by one, 84-83, Danilo Gallinari stepped back behind the three-point line and drilled a 25-footer with 1:18 left in the game to put the Knicks up, 86-84. When the Heats’ James Jones (James Jones taking a long-range three at the end of a close, conference game?) missed a three-point attempt, Fields, who has a nose for the ball, grabbed the rebound and soon followed with a huge 24-foot three-pointer to expand the Knicks’ lead to five, 89-84 with 49 seconds left.

“From this game, we learned that everyone has to be ready,” said Gallinari. “We all have to be ready in the crucial moment because the chance to hit the most important shot can get into your hands whenever.”

In Gallinari’s case, that “whenever” came at the game’s end, as he hit the shot that almost raised the Garden roof, the crowd noise being that loud.

“It was like a playoff game,” said Raymond Felton. “It’s always fun when it’s like that in the Garden.”

But it wasn’t over. It never is when the other team has James and Wade. James came right down to hit a driving layup and the game tightened again, 89-86 in the Knicks favor. Then, James, who struggled most of the night with 7 of 24 from the field, scored again to make it a one-point game, 89-88 with just 18 seconds left.

Felton dribbled the ball for scant seconds before he was fouled.  He hit both free throws to put the Knicks back up by three, 91-88. With nine seconds to go, Mario Chalmers, he of the 6 ppg. scoring average, took a pass from Wade and missed what could have been a game-tying 3-point shot. That’s right, Mario Chalmers, with James and Wade on the court, took the biggest shot of the game for the Heat. And of course, the famous James Jones earlier hoisting up a three at the one minute mark and the Heat down two.

“When I got back in during the fourth quarter, I trusted my teammates  and I got the ball and gave guys shots,” said Wade. “They just didn’t go down. I was playing point guard at that time so I was facilitating. We got some good shots but they just didn’t go in.”

Yeah, but…Chalmers and Jones? It just doesn’t have the same ring as Wade and LeBron. 

The two superstars of the Heat, who were both named starters earlier in the day for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, had contrasting performances tonight. James, who averages over 30 ppg. for his career against the Knicks, couldn’t find the basket for the first three quarters. Asked to play the power forward position to replace the injured Chris Bosh, James seemed out of place and out of sync on the offensive end. But, perhaps another reason for his dismal shooting performance could have been the defensive play of a Knicks sub, Shawne Williams. The 6’9” power forward from the University of Memphis was played much longer than usual by Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni for one sole reason. He was able to use his own 240 pound bulk to body up to James, not giving an inch to him on the defensive end and forcing King James into rushing shots.

It’s not often you see James affected by any defender in this league but D’Antoni may have discovered a rare jewel in Williams, who comes from the hard-scrabble neighborhoods of Memphis.

“Shawne is a very smart basketball player,” said D’Antoni. “If you know where he comes from, you know he doesn’t back down from anyone. I thought he did a good job on LeBron. He’s got a bigger body, he’s a little bit stronger and he kind of surprised me. I didn’t know he could do that. I’m not saying he shut down LeBron, don’t write that, I’ll get Shawne killed by the league, but he did a great job.”

Wade started out hitting his first 13 shots, a career-best for the superstar, and he seemed unstoppable for the majority of the game, until the final quarter. when D’Antoni put the rookie Fields on him. Wade shot 0 for 6 in the quarter, ending up with 34 points for the game after scoring 28 in the first half.

At games’ end, the Knicks, their fans, TNT, the celebs, and the NBA all walked out of the Garden with big smiles, knowing this sort of rivalry is a win-win for everyone connected to the sport.

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