NEW YORK – The Knicks stumbled into the All-Star break losing six straight. Although three of those games were against NBA juggernauts Cleveland, Boston and the Lakers, it was nevertheless an embarrassing showing after winning eight of their previous eleven. New York ended that skid with an exclamation mark last night as they defeated the favored San Antonio Spurs in overtime, 112-107.
One of the most evenly-matched games this season has seen, the Knicks went into halftime with a 57-56 lead over the Spurs. The biggest lead of the whole game was when the Spurs were up by seven with 3:18 left in the second quarter.
The hero of tonight’s game was the always-fiery Nate Robinson. Fresh off winning his second career Slam Dunk trophy this past weekend in Phoenix, “KryptoNate” Robinson looked sharp in all aspects of the game. He finished with 32 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. One particular dazzling play was at the 8:50 mark in the second quarter. Robinson began driving down the lane, saw that there was too much traffic, spun the ball around his body, passed it back to a sprinting Danilo Gallinari who slam dunked it in. The crowd has always loved Robinson and they went into a frenzy after that play.
“He’s been playing extremely well and I thought especially in the second half. In the first half he was a little bit jittery and messed around a little bit with the ball. In the second half, he settled down and was terrific,” Head Coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He’s doing a good job of just making the right play.”
With 6:02 left in the fourth, Wilson Chandler nailed a three-pointer to tie the game at 88. Robinson was again in the thick of things as with 4:26 left in the fourth quarter, the guard drove in a lay-up being fouled in the process. He pumped his fists in the air and yelled to the rafters. He then calmed down and completed the three-point play. There have been so many trade talks swirling around him and fans would surely hate to see him go as he’s easily one of the most passionate players the Garden has seen in recent years.
With 52 seconds left in regulation and the Spurs leading 100-99, Lee was fouled. He missed the first free throw, but tied the game on the second. Tim Duncan retaliated with a jumper briefly giving San Antonio the lead. Again, Robinson was there to answer back, this time with another lay-up. With 3.1 seconds left, an inbound pass was given to Tim Duncan. To the delight of the Garden faithful he missed the jumpshot sending the game to overtime with the score tied at 102.
In overtime, Robinson continued his stellar play as he scored six of the Knicks’ ten points. San Antonio Head Coach Gregg Popovich also had positive things to say about Robinson.
“He’s a wonderful player. He gets after it,” Popovich said. “He wants to do things that help the team win. He kind of does for them what [Manu] Ginobili does for us in a way. He’s got that kind of spirit, that kind of aggressiveness.”
Other bright spots for the Knicks included another trade-talk accumulator David Lee. He recorded another double-double as he scored 13 points and brought down 12 boards. Chandler and Chris Duhon each had 17 points.
On the Spurs’ side, Duncan had 26 points with 15 rebounds and was San Antonio’s high scorer. Guard Roger Mason netted 20 points. All-Star Tony Parker, whose wife Eva Longoria-Parker was in attendance and definitely got a louder ovation that he did, had a quiet game scoring 14 but only recording three assists.
Parker did have this to say about the Knicks, “They look like Phoenix of the East, they take a lot of shots, a lot of threes and play great transition defense. Same old thing when you play against a Mike D’Antoni team.”
Going into the All-Star break, the Knicks didn’t look like a team that deserved to be in the playoffs. They still don’t. D’Antoni’s squad has to bring down more rebounds and play like they did last night. D’Antoni is still not taking my advice (and the advice of many Knick fans) and playing Gallinari more. Then when the kid does play, he rarely gets the ball (last night he played ten minutes and made the only shot he took) as teammates are hesitant to dish it to him. I don’t know why they are. He is wasting valuable learning time by playing ten to fifteen minutes a night. He’d be better off playing thirty minutes in the D-League, lengthening out his performances and strengthening his endurance.
Anyways, I have this message to the Garden faithful: if you get nothing else (as in missing the playoffs), at least your team is providing you with fun and competitive basketball.