An NBA Nightcap: The Knicks Hang on Against at Charlotte
A fun afternoon of college basketball gave way to the professional ranks as the New York Knicks took the court against the Charlotte Bobcats.
While earlier, New York’s Cornell beat Davidson from the Charlotte, North Carolina area, the Knicks completed the New York-over-North Carolina college-pro sweep.
Forward Danilo Gallinari’s game-saving play typified the recent change in Knicks’ identity as a team, one which used to try to simply outscore teams, but a team that has now held its opponents under 100 points in its past seven games, while winning five of those contests.
Known more for his sharp shooting and offensive skills, Gallinari (21 points) actually missed a few late opportunities to salt the game away at the foul line for New York before making a block with 4.9 seconds left to seal a 98-94 win for the Knicks, despite Charlotte guard Raymond Felton (game-high 27 points) doing all he could to try to steal a late victory for the Bobcats.
In the opening quarter, it was ironically the NBA game which featured the most-amateur-looking players of the day, as the Knicks welcomed back old coach Larry Brown for a holiday visit, as well as Wat Misaka, who appeared at halftime. Misaka, a 5-foot-7 point guard, was the Knicks’ first-ever draft pick, and the first non-caucasian player in the NBA.
The game started out close (tied at 2-2, 4-4, 6-6, 8-8, and 10-10) if only because neither team early on, could put the ball in the basket enough to sustain any kind of run.
Charlotte (10-16) finally scored four straight to lead 14-10, but the Knicks (10-17) finished the opening period on a 6-0 run, to lead 16-14, in a poor-shooting first quarter in which each team shot as cold as the snow-covered city outside The Garden. The Bobcats finished the quarter shooting just 33.3 percent, making just 7 of 21 shots from the field. The Knicks were even worse, shooting only 31.6 percent (6 of 19) from the floor in the opening twelve minutes.
Once the ice was broken however, both offenses heated up a lot in the second quarter.
Each team scored more in the second period than what they combined for in the first quarter.
It took less than four minutes for Charlotte to surpass their first quarter point total, taking a 30-27 lead. And, New York surpassed its opening quarter point total about a minute later, trimming the Bobcats’ lead to 32-31 on a layup with about 7 minutes left in the first half.
The Knicks went on a 13-4 run to lead 45-38, with guard Wilson Chandler (team/season-high 26 points) heating up offensively, and they never trailed again, even though the scrappy Bobcats ( provided Knick fans with a few anxious moments late in the game.
Chandler brought the Garden crowd to its feet with the right-handed power dunk to end the first half with the Knicks ahead, 51-45.
In the third quarter, point guard Chris Duhon (13 points, 6 assists) fed forward David Lee (15 points, game-high 15 rebounds) for a basket, and on the next possession, Duhon sank a right-wing three-pointer to give the Knicks the largest lead of the game, 68-56, forcing Charlotte to call a time out with 6:21 left in the period.
Charlotte kept battling back though, and the Knicks took their same six-point halftime lead into the final period after the teams played even (scoring 25 apiece) in the third quarter.
Forward Al Harrington (10 points off the bench) made a nice tip-in off a Duhon miss from the left wing, to put New York a seemingly comfortable 94-87 lead with just 1:31 left in the game.
But, Felton scored five straight points to cap a 7-1 Charlotte run that pulled the Bobcats to within 95-94 with 12.2 seconds remaining.
During that run, Gallinari missed one of two free throws, and with the Knicks ahead 95-94 and 9.3 seconds left, Gallinari again missed one of two at the free throw line.
But, with forward Boris Diaw driving down the lane to try to tie the game, Gallinari made a nice block with to secure the victory, giving the Knicks a record above .500 (9-8) since a franchise-worst 1-9 start.
Chandler made a pair of free throws with 0.6 seconds left to finally put the game away for good.
After two previous losses to Charlotte this season –- one in which the Knicks battled back from a large deficit only to lose, and another, in which New York blew a big lead late, Knicks’ head coach Mike D’Antoni credited his team’s much improved defense for closing it out this time against the Bobcats. Yet, he’s not overly concerned with the style his team plays, as long as the Knicks are playing winning basketball.
“I don’t care, I really don’t,” he said about winning lower-scoring, more defense-oriented games. “We’ve just got to figure out what is the best way for them to play? And, right now, this is the best way.”
Lee said being at the Garden helped the Knicks close out the win on Sunday, as opposed to their two losses in Charlotte. “A little bit of it is being at home,” he said. “It’s a little easier to close games out like that at home.”
But, despite the Knicks’ fifth straight home win, Lee recognizes the need to do the same away from MSG, saying “That’s something we gotta learn, and we’re a younger team, and we need to find a way to do that. That’s what good teams do.”
Still, for basketball fans enjoying the holiday season on a snowy Sunday in New York, it was a nice way to cap a good day of wall-to-wall basketball.