Game Notes: Raps at Knicks
It’s Italian Heritage Night! Bargnani, Gallinari, D’Antoni, oh my!
It’s the middle of January and two Atlantic Division teams are about to go to head to head. This can only mean one of two things:
1. Two Atlantic Division teams are already playing meaningless basketball at the start of the New Year.
2. Two Atlantic Division teams are vying for a spot in a weak Eastern Conference.
Luckily for us, it’s the latter. Even luckier for us, it’s “Italian Heritage Night” at MSG, as the Raptors (19-20) face the Knicks (16-22). Mama Mia, (insert something expressive here in Italian).
There are three subplots to the overall matchup tonight:
1. Since it is “Italian Heritage Night” the buzz around the building is focusing on the Knicks’ Danilo Gallinari and Raptor’s Andrea Bargnani. The two were teammates on the Italian National team during the 2004 Olympics. There’s a swarm of foreign media, since the game will be broadcast back in Italy at 2 A.M. You can spot them because they’re dressed nicer than everybody else. Both are on the court about an hour before the game shooting the ball from around the arc. Watching Gallinari shoot the ball is mesmerizing. The kid doesn’t miss.
As I’m walking through the tunnel to the Raptors locker room, Gallo and Andrea exchange a couple words in Italian and I do my best to understand what they’re saying. I get a little closer behind them and turn my ear to their conversation, careful not to intrude. Maybe they’re talking about where to eat after the game, or soccer or something. I have to know what it is. Then I realize I don’t understand one word in Italian anyway. Brilliant.
2. The battle between potential All-Star candidates, David Lee and Chris Bosh. Both southpaws are putting up numbers during their contract years, and I’m sure both want to make a statement against the other tonight. DLee is already on the court when I get to the building two hours before tip-off, working with Assistant Coach Herb Williams on his ever-improving jump shot.
3. DeMar DeRozan recently chosen to compete in the Dunk-In Contest against the Clippers Eric Gordon. I spot DeRozan in the locker room and ask him if he’s ever seen Gordon fly before.
DeMar DeRozan: “Yeah, you know in high school he was one of those big, strong athletic guards. He always did a couple of stuff. Since he been in the league he’s mainly been a three-point shooter, but I’m not going to underestimate him. He might come out with some thunder.”
Dominic Chianese aka Corrado “Junior” Soprano sang the National Anthem. It was more or less half-singing, half emphatically speaking. The crowd loved it. I loved it. What a guy.
Raptors: Jarrett Jack, DeMar DeRozan, Hedo Turkoglu, Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani
Knicks: Chris Duhon, Wilson Chandler, Jared Jeffries, Danilo Gallinari, David Lee
Bosh wins the tip against Jeffries, and Jarrett Jack hits a three to start the game. Gallo and Hedo will start on each other to begin.
Bosh is tearing it up down low and the Knicks can’t buy a bucket. 14-3 Raptors with 8:13 left in the first, as Bargnani hits a three.
Gallo goes in for the monster jam, changes his mind in mid-air and blows the layup. DeRozan grabs the ball on the break and Jeffries commits a flagrant foul. Mama mia! Okay, I’ll stop saying it.
Chandler blows another layup and Bargnani comes right back and pops a three. If you’re counting who’s reppin’ Italy harder right now, Andrea is winning that battle. It’s 17-4 Raptors with 6:44 left in the first.
Bosh goes head on at Lee with an acrobatic finish, but the Daily Double comes back with a scoop of his own. First real De-Fense chant of the game and Hedo nails a three to silence the crowd. Then Bargnani just stuffed it…wow.
David Lee just dunked the ball and got up in Bargnani’s face like a kid, waiving his arms and jumping around. He get’s hit with a T. It got the crowd back in it and it’s a continuing sign of his growing leadership. I haven’t seen a Knick do that, get in somebody’s face, since the ‘90’s. It’s still 26-13 Toronto, but the Knicks seem to have waken up a bit.
The crowd is dying to get into this game. The Knicks need somebody to hit a shot. Harrington hits a triple. Right on time. But, the Knicks keep settling for jump-shots, instead of going to the hole. Raptors are 4-7 from downtown to start the game and have gotten to the line for 12 free throws already. Offense is running on all cylinders right now.
Bargnani is LOVING Italian night. Holy hell. He’s 4-4 from downtown for 14 and 6 rebounds.
Gallo’s growing up. He saw the defender’s hand dangling out there, pump faked and got the defender to flinch for the shooting foul.
Big story of this quarter: Knicks give up 39 points to Toronto on 12-19 shooting (.632), 5-8 from downtown, and 10-14 from the stripe. Knicks on the other hand go 7-23. Gallo is 0-5 (0-3 from three), Bargnani is 5-6 (4-4) from downtown.
Wilson Chandler needs to step his game up in this quarter. He’s been non-existent the entire first quarter. Then he commits a charging foul. Fantastic!
Jeffries stares at Calderon, begging him to shoot. He does. Three points for Toronto.
It is 51-24 Toronto with 8:10 left in the second. On all nights, not Italian Heritage Night!
The Raptors can’t miss tonight. Wherever Bargnani took them to eat tonight certainly paid off.
4:09 left in the second and Wilson Chandler picked up his fourth foul.
Duhon just dribbled in two circles, trying to impersonate Steve Nash. That ended as well as it started.
Sonny Weems with a monster rejection on David Lee’s dunk attempt. Pretty much sums up the half.
Gallo hits a three to beat the buzzer, and the fans stand up and cheer. Why? I have no idea. It’s 67-43 Raptors at the half, who are shooting the lights out. They’re picking apart the Knicks defense with the three-ball (8-14). Calderon off the bench with 14 points and 3 dimes.
Wilson Chandler picks up his 5th foul with 9:20 left in the third. Say hi to Jordan Hill for us will you?
Andrea freaking Bargnani with another three, his fifth of the game. Now Gallo comes back with one of his own (his third). Why couldn’t the game start out like this?
Gallo hits a three after a clear path foul and all of a sudden it’s a 15-point game with 7:06 left in the third. The crowd is back in this game.
Italian Night is slowly coming to life, as Gallo quietly has 19 after popping a three to cut the lead to 15. Bargnani with 22 on 8-9 shooting.
Bosh and Lee have been battling this quarter, but Bosh is too quick for Lee on the block. A quick spin and he’s by him.
Lead cut to 13 and chants of defense emerge. Knicks get the stop and Gallo draws the foul. Signs of life from the Knicks. The defensive intensity has picked up and timely hooping has them back in the game.
The Knicks have outscored the Raptors 28-17 this quarter. Lee with 23 and Gallo with 19.
Jared Jeffries just picked up his 5th foul with 2:10 left in the third.
Lee is carrying this team on his back. He’s slowly emerging as their go-to-guy.
The lead is now NINE after AL drains a three. This building is rocking right now.
After being down 24 at the half the Knicks have cut the deficit to 13, 93-80.
Gallo with a steal and Wilson put back. Lead now 11.
N8 with a three of his own. Lead to 8.
All of a sudden it’s a 16-point game again. 106-90 Raptors with 5:42 left in the fourth. The Knicks have a problem getting stops and started settling for jump shots instead of taking it to the hoop. They also went away from David Lee, after he started off real hot.
Hedo hits another three and the crowd begins to exit. AL comes back with his own three and the crowd sits back down. Fickle Fans!
It’s still a 12-point game with 3:48 left, but it seems a little too late. And Calderon hits a three. Holy hell they’ve been lights out from beyond the arc this game.
David Lee is an assist away from a triple double. Gallo with another three and it’s a 10-point game. However, there’s no coming back. That should rap it up.
Final Score: 112-104 Raptors.
A quick look at the score sheet, and you realize the Raptors were NBA Jam fire tonight. 39-73 shooting and 12-22 from beyond the arc. Hedo, Bargnani, Calderon all hit three or more triples. DeRozan got to the stripe for 14 free throws.
Before the media is even allowed into the locker rooms, I spot Darko Milicic exit the building. Well fine! I didn’t want to talk to you either!
Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry are eating a piece of lasagna, as the media waits for David Lee. All of a sudden I’m starving. Damn you, Italian Heritage Night.
Coach D’Antoni on tonight’s game: “First, you have to give them credit, they shot the living daylights out of us. We didn’t make them feel us at all. Bargnani had an unbelievable first half.”
David Lee on his technical foul: “It was more funny than anything else, because he (Bargnani) celebrated after his dunk. Andrea’s a good guy. It was no hatred toward him or anything like that.”