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Knicks Show Champs Who's Boss

By Jacob Smith

As Knicks fans, we all were encouraged by the quick start, the flashy offense, and entertaining style. A couple of good wins had us counting our blessings and pondering a playoff appearance. But after the team's recent swoon that included home losses to the Timberwolves and the Pacers, this fan base was reminded that we are not yet at a point where there are "games we should win."

However ghastly some of these losses have been, Knicks Nation held its breath heading into Sunday night's meeting with the defending champion Boston Celtics, a team that has showed no mercy against the struggling Knicks in the recent past, especially during a six-game winning streak at the Garden. And though the C's were reeling after losing three of their last five, we were expecting a statement game, one in which they would say, "hey, we're still the best, and don't forget it." This, in essence, was a "game we should lose." But behind remarkable defense (don't get to say that too often), and inspired performances by Wilson Chandler and Al Harrington, the Knicks pulled out a convincing 100-88 victory over the champs and once again gave us something to be proud of.

The Knicks started quickly out of the gates, staying within punching distance of Boston and trading leads throughout the first half en route to a 53-50 halftime deficit. And then in the third quarter, Chandler showed why Mike D'Antoni is so enamored with him. He scored the lion's share of his 31 points in the third period, as the Knicks opened up a double-digit lead that would shrink, but never vanish. On one play, Chandler faked Defensive Player of the Year Kevin Garnett out of his green Adidas and took him to the rack, finishing on two Celtics with a fearless gusto and confidence that had this Knicks fan remembering the last great Knicks 3-man, Latrell Sprewell.

We were reminded that no fourth-quarter lead is safe with this team when Paul Pierce, who dropped 31, scored eight straight points and cut the Knicks lead to four. But with timely shooting from Chandler and Harrington, who racked up 30 points of his own, the Knicks stretched the lead back to double digits and never looked back. David Lee finished with his customary double-double, notching 14 and 14. Garnett finished with just six points and point guard Rajon Rondo finished with three, as the two combined for 2-13 shooting. Jared Jeffries guarded Rondo for much of the game, and it was clear his height and length gave Rondo fits. It was also clear, as the Knicks left Rondo open for ten-foot jumpers he couldn't make and then wouldn't even attempt, that this most-improved player candidate still has something major to work on.

So what did this convincing win convince us of? For one, the team played with energy and fearlessness from the get-go, showing us that D'Antoni has this team believing they can win on any given night. But perhaps even more important were the snapshots of the Knicks bench and the emphatic gestures by Harrington after draining a twenty-eight footer in KG's face. This team has fun and the players enjoy playing with each other. They root for each other. When they get taken out down the stretch, they don't sulk, they stand and cheer. Perhaps the good vibes from this win will carry over to the upcoming road trip, and perhaps they will vanish into thin air with a loss in their next game to the pathetic Thunder.

But on this night, let us rejoice that we have a real team, one that will put forth the effort and keep its fans in the game. On this night, we took the defending champs down a peg. On this night, we conquered a dynasty.

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