“It was kind of like a panic play almost. I’d seen Jamal drive so I just rotated basically, just by instinct.” – Wilson Chandler
“He [Danilo Galinari] was the star of the game. He did an unbelievable job for us. He did a great job forcing Joe [Johnson] into tough shots. Sometimes they went, but he did a good job of forcing him into them. Gallo played well on both ends for us.” – David Lee
“I’ve learned a lot. I can honestly say, not playing, I’ve become a better student of the game on the bench. Watching the veterans out there, watching the other teams, watching the whole NBA, being a student of the game, watching film, knowing what I need to work on and what I can do to get better. I feel like I have a lot more to keep doing, and I’m gonna keep doing it until I can’t get better no more.”– Toney Douglas
The Knicks have beaten the Hawks three times this season which makes it hard to believe that the Hawks are really as good as their record. The three losses also cast doubt on the ability of Joe Johnson to be that top tier go-to player who can turn a team, especially the Knicks, into a championship contender. The Hawks coach, Mike Woodson, blames the losses on the match-ups, which indicates that Woodson doesn’t have a clue himself. The Hawks lose to the Knicks because they are a poorly coached team against the Knicks. The Knicks win the battle of the Mikes. It’s that simple.
The keys to beating the Knicks are fairly clear and should be obvious at this point in the season: solid defense for at least 2 1/2 quarters, post play and fast break offense to place pressure on the Knicks’ transition defense. The Hawks did none of the above and lost a game they should not have lost.
The Knicks deserve a great deal of credit however, especially after losing to the New Jersey Nets while setting a record for missed tres in a single game. Against the Hawks the Knicks came out with a desire to play and began by rebounding from the previous poor shooting night by hitting 10 of 15 tres for the game. The players refused to mail it in and seemed to feed off the heightened competitive level (Lee v. Al Horford; Jamal Crawford back to his NY home; Douglas an Atl native playing his home team ) in the Garden.
The best sign for the Knicks was the play of a very aggressive Danilo Gallinari (27 points on a wide array of moves including an game opening dribble drive dunk and 5 boards). Some will suggest that his play improved because McGrady was not in the lineup and not seen as the focal point of the offense. Certainly, Gallo is better, at times, with the ball in his hand because he can create his own shot sorta-kinda. Against the Hawks he was more aggressive taking the ball to the basket and posting up on mismatches early in the game. He also was shooting without that thought-hitch which is the slight hesitation that let’s you know he is thinking about the shot while he goes into his motion. (my bet is that he had an excellent fluid practice earlier in the day).
Danilo was impressive but it did not hurt him nor his teammates that the Hawks were lax on defending the perimeter.
Defensively, the Knicks were more communicative and active than usual which was made easier by the Hawks walking the ball up the court instead of using all that athleticism to apply some pressure and speed on the transition defense. Part of that was Bibby’s ( 1-point on 0-4 shooting) fault who, in his waning years, plays more like Chris Duhon of today than Bibby of old. The slow down game allowed the Knicks to get into position on transition. Blame should also be laid at Woodson’s seat as he has the players to run the Knicks into the ground, but he rarely has them run against the Knicks. The real match-up problem is that he can’t out-coach D’Antoni and even his players sense it. “We should have dominated this series but they match up well and [Mike] D’Antoni’s a great coach,” said Josh Smith ( 25 Pts, 10 Reb, 6 Ast, 3 Blk).
Also, the Knicks easily reduced the Hawks to a jump-shooting team. The problem for the Hawks is that they run far too many self-called iso’s during which player and ball movement grind to an absolute halt. Hawk players would rather force the issue than force the Knicks to switch and communicate by moving the ball around and running through a series of picks.
Crawford (16 points, 6 boards) finally had a decent game against the Knicks with 16 points. Previously and early in this game, he seems to be impacted by his nerves. With four seconds left, Crawford made a great move after picking up a loose ball and penetrating to the hoop when he dished off to Josh Smith who went up to dunk the ball, with 1.7 seconds remaining only to be stopped by Wilson Chandler. Chandler rotated over and saved the day with an emphatic strong block.
No one was more relieved by Chandler’s stop than rookie Toney Douglas (11 points and 3 assists in 24 minutes) who was finally getting some meaningful playing time under D’Antoni. After beginning the season in the rotation, Douglas had been relegated to the bench where he learned by watching. But, if they want him to become a better point guard, he has to play one on the hardwood.
The Hawks suck, but the Knicks deserve credit for giving us an exciting win when we thought the season was officially over in their locker-room.