“It wasn’t that I was trying to go out there and prove a point. I just love to play the game of basketball. This is the only way I know how to play it, which is at my speed.” – Nate Robinson
“Pretty unbelievable. He singlehandedly won us the game down the stretch. I got nothing but happiness for him. And it goes to show what kind of character he has and what he’s capable of doing when given the chance.” – David Lee
“I can’t see what would have happened if I didn’t do it. When I did it we were struggling. And then we had the best month we’ve had here in eight years, so would we have had a better month? I don’t know that. But we’re going forward. There’s no use looking back now.” –Mike D’Antoni
Finally. Coach Mike D’Antoni allowed Nate Robinson, who possessed a month of pent-up b-ball energy, into the rotation after holding him out for 14 games. In response, and perhaps retaliation, Nate let loose for 41 points as he controlled the pace of the game down the stretch and led the Knicks to a fantastic win. N8Gr8, who usually has an overabundance of energy, was supercharged last night as he added 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal and some unstoppable juking, jiving and driving to help the Knicks overcome a 13 point deficit to take the game into overtime.
All night D’Antoni and the Knicks had difficulty matching up with the much more athletic Atlanta Hawks who were able to neutralize David Lee who only contributed 11 points and 7 boards ending his double-double streak at seven games. Josh Smith (21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks), Al Horford (22 points, 19 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Joe Johnson (28 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists & 2 steals) were very difficult for the Knicks to handle as the Hawks scored 54 points in the paint. Only the Knicks zone defense and the poor shooting of Jamal Crawford (4 pts on 2-12 shooting) and Mike Bibby (11 points on 5-12 shooting) slowed the Hawks on the offensive end.
Jamal Crawford seems to be at his most mediocre against the Knicks these days. But, no one could handle his buddy Nate who was mesmerizing with an assortment of tazmanian drives and pull-up jumpers that had the Hawk defenders on their heels.
The athleticism in this game seemed to play to Wilson Chandler’s strengths as he scored 24 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and dished 4 assists in 48 minutes. Instead of bombing long tres, he mixed it up in the box, popped some mid-range jumpers and lofted arcs from the tre-corner. Gallinari was also effective with 13 points and 3-4 from the arc. Although he was a +8 on the floor, he clearly had difficulty with the Hawks athleticism as he accumulated five fouls and was unable to breakdown defenders to drive to the basket.
Of course, Nate’s game raises questions about the effectiveness of D’Antoni’s bench banishment of Nate. The apologists, or those who choose to ignore the truth, suggest that the 14 DNP’s were just the right punishment to right Nate Robinson’s mind. Others wonder how many more games we would have won if D’Antoni allowed Nate to play and did not overwork tired players and rotations in back-to-backs or if he were not so stubborn. Nevertheless, D’Antoni may still be able to claim credit for turning the Knicks into a permanant play-off contender in 2010 if he can figure out how to use Robinson to maximum effect.
D’Antoni clearly out-coached Mike Woodson who possessed superior talent. Not only was D’Antoni’s use of the zone timely, he smartly called for mismatches against Mike Bibby who was often caught in switches and seemed unable to guard anyone, especially Wilson Chandler. Although it may not have been the best move, D’Antoni also sought to match the Hawks athleticism by bringing in Marcus Landry (2 points and 3 boards in 5 minutes).
The Knicks could scare the Hawks, even at full-strength, in the playoffs. Great game.