NEW YORK – It was “”Italian Heritage Night” tonight at Madison Square Garden when the Knicks faced off against the Toronto Raptors. No, free pizza wasn’t handed out to the 19,763 fans in the arena but with Andrea Bargnani and Marco Belinelli playing for the Raptors and Danilo Gallinari for New York, the night was billed as a celebration of all things Italian.
It might have been a harbinger of things to come when the Garden public address announcer introduced Bargnani as being from Spain, a country a little bit to the north and east of Italy but as disjointed and unfortunate as the misplacing of Bargnani’s homeland might have been, it didn’t compare to the first half of basketball the Knicks played.
Toronto shot 53 percent and opened a 28-point lead that was eventually cut down to eight early in the fourth quarter before Calderon made consecutive jumpers and Hedo Turkoglu knocked down another to push it back to 14.
“First, you have to give them credit, they shot the living daylights out of us,” said Knicks coach, Mike D’Antoni. “Bargnani had an unbelievable first half. Having said that, we started off cold. We’re missing open shots, lay-ups, and everything. It took us awhile to get into it.
The game was televised live at 2 a.m. in Italy, home of the 2004 Olympic basketball silver medalists. Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni was a star player and championship-winning coach in Italy.
“I’m just really happy to see a lot of Italian players playing in the league and I think there will be more,” D’Antoni said before the game. “It’s fun and obviously it conjures a lot of great memories that I had.”
Andrea Bargnani had 24 points and 12 rebounds, helping the Toronto Raptors get off to a sizzling start in a 112-104 victory over the New York Knicks on Friday night.
Jose Calderon matched a season high with 21 points, rookie DeMar DeRozan scored 19 and Chris Bosh had 18 for the Raptors, who bounced back from consecutive losses and got back to .500 at 20-20. Bargnani hurt the Knicks inside and out, making five 3-pointers and shooting 9 of 13 from the field.
Al Harrington scored 31 points, Danilo Gallinari had 26 and David Lee finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists for the Knicks.
The Raptors made six of their first eight shots, then extended the lead to 24-8 after Bargnani drove down the lane for a powerful dunk that brought Toronto’s bench players leaping to their feet in celebration. Apparently annoyed, Lee threw one down about a minute later and jumped up and down right in Bargnani’s face, bumping into him and drawing a technical foul.
Toronto led 39-20 after one and kept right on rolling in the second, making 17 of its first 27 shots. The lead ballooned to 56-28 on Calderon’s 3-pointer with 5:57 left in the half and the Raptors were up 67-43 at the break after shooting 59 percent.
The Knicks got back into it in the third behind 12 points from Harrington, whose 3-pointer cut it to 89-80 with 32 seconds remaining before DeRozan scored the final four points of the period.
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