New York Knicks vs Phoenix Suns (126 – 99) December 1, 2009

New York Knicks vs Phoenix Suns (126 – 99) December 1, 2009
The Knicks’ Danilo Gallinari had a double-double (27 points, 10 rebounds) to lead New York over Phoenix.
December 1, 2009

Knicks race to surprising 27-point rout of Suns
By Adam Zagoria, for
Posted Tuesday December 1, 2009 11:39PM
NEW YORK ( exclusive) — For one glitzy night in the Big Apple, the New York Knicks looked like an elite and entertaining team capable of beating the NBA’s best.

Fortunately for head coach Mike D’Antoni, that night came when his current team faced his old one.

In an outcome no one could have predicted, the Knicks ran the Phoenix Suns out of Madison Square Garden, 126-99, on Tuesday night.

David Lee chipped in 24 points and eight rebounds to help the Knicks end their five-game skid.Nick Laham/NBAE/Getty Images”Mentally for everybody, for the team, it means a lot,” said Knicks forward Danilo Gallinari, who had game-highs of 27 points and 10 rebounds to go with two blocks. “When you play against a team that plays your game and is at the top of the list because they have the best record … it’s great for us.”

The teams entered with records that mirrored one another, the Suns with the best record in the NBA at 14-3 and the Knicks with the league’s third-worst mark at 3-14.

The win snapped a five-game losing streak and a seven-game home losing skid for the Knicks, who won for just the fourth time in 18 games.

Phoenix (14-4), which entered with a half-game lead over the Lakers for first place in the Pacific Division, saw its four-game winning streak come to an end as it failed to score 100 points for the first time this season.

“Maybe we took them [the Knicks] a little lightly, but you still have to play hard,” said Phoenix point guard Steve Nash, who finished with 20 points and eight assists.

“They just played harder than we did. We’re embarrassed and have to pick ourselves up. Not a whole lot to say tonight.”

D’Antoni, who coached Nash in Phoenix for four-plus seasons before coming to the Knicks last season, said he felt no personal satisfaction from beating his old team.

“We’ve got some problems that we’re just trying to solve,” he said. “We just caught them on one of those nights when they’re flat. It just happens sometimes. The NBA is like that. We played good. I’m happy.”

David Lee, who had 24 points and eight rebounds, figures just winning a home game was reward enough for the coach.

“I think coach would’ve taken a win against anybody right now. We needed to get off the schnide, especially against a great team,” Lee said.

Phoenix entered with the NBA’s best offense (112 ppg) and the Knicks feature the league’s third-worst defense (109.2), so it figured to be a high-scoring affair.

But the Knicks’ defense held the Suns to under 100 points by forcing 14 turnovers and blocking six shots.

“I thought Jared [Jeffries] came in and did a terrific job defensively,” D’Antoni said of Jeffries, who had 10 points, five rebounds and four blocks. “I think that really helped us a lot, that we were able to move the ball and get good shots and play good defense.”

The teams combined for 129 points in the first half, when six players reached double-digits in scoring.

The Knicks led by as many as 16 points in the first half before taking a 71-58 halftime lead.

Gallinari scored 20 points in the first half, going 4-for-5 from beyond the arc and showing the kind of potential the Knicks hope to build around in future years. He made 10 of 19 shots for the game, including six of 12 beyond the arc.

“That’s the kind of guy that we envisioned and need, and he’ll get there,” D’Antoni said. “I wish it was yesterday to get there, but we have to have a little patience and understand he’s 21 years old.”

Said Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry: “We let them get off to the races, and I think that you can see the type of player that Gallinari’s going to be as he gets more mature and stronger and stuff like that. He’s a great shooter. Obviously, he is. He leads the NBA in makes in 3-pointers and we just could never have enough stops that we could get back into the game and we’ve been pretty good at that over the last 15 games or so.”

The Knicks put the game away in the third quarter by outscoring Phoenix 29-18 to extend the lead to 100-76 after three.

Al Harrington scored 22 points off the bench, Wilson Chandler had 12 and Larry Hughes had 11 points, 12 assists and six rebounds.

For the game, New York made 14 of 31 from beyond the arc (45 percent), while Phoenix converted 4 of 17 (24 percent).

Jason Richardson and Amar’e Stoudemire scored 14 apiece for Phoenix.

Still, on this night it was the Knicks coach who got the better of his old team.

“Let’s see if we can do this for four or five games, or a 10-game stretch,” said D’Antoni, whose team visits Orlando on Wednesday and Atlanta on Friday before coming home to host the winless Nets on Sunday. “Then we’ll talk about it. I’m not going to get my head chopped off for one night.”

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