After seeing the Nets' CEO making a fool of himself for bothering to argue with a man wearing a bag on his head on Monday, it was funny to sit and watch the crowd at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. If the Nets got exactly the fan they deserved, the Knicks got 20,000-odd fans that they absolutely don't deserve for their game against the Nuggets.
The crowd was loud, they were involved and they showed up in droves to watch the hometown side try for their 26th victory of the season. That they were rewarded with that victory and a strong performance against a good Nuggets team seems like dumb luck but the Knicks would be wise to keep a tape of this game lying around for when they talk to free agents this summer.
Not only because of the crowd, although it's hard to imagine any player not being able to see the potential joy of basking in the adulation of a crowd even more keyed up than one for a game late in a lost season. The tape would also show off the fact that the cupboard isn't totally bare in Knicks-land.
Danilo Gallinari drew a lot of snickers when he said he wanted to square off with Carmelo Anthony on defense. By the end of the night, it was clear that Gallo wasn't able to shut down 'Melo, but, then, no one can shut the Nuggets star down and he hardly dominated the game. Gallo also did his best to get back every point he gave up, especially while scoring 17 in a third quarter shooting exhibition that keyed the victory. He talked a bit, swaggered a bit and, judging from his hug with Anthony after the game, won a little bit of respect.
Another Knick with a golden ticket for next season, Toney Douglas, also had a night worth noticing. He got banged around by Chauncey Billups early, picking up three fouls in a master class in playing point guard in the NBA. That'll happen with rookies, sometimes, and you can only hope they learn the lessons being taught by their elders. Judging by the shot Douglas hit to ice the game, a step-back jumper that exploited a mismatch with the bigger Nene off a defensive switch, he learned something on Tuesday night.
A large crowd whipped to a frenzy by clutch shooting, tough late defense and a win against one of the league's best teams. All at once it was a combination of "Winning Time," the terrific new documentary about the old wars with Reggie and the Pacers, and a fingers crossed preview of what the next few years will bring back into our lives.
That's a lot more good cheer than any team winding down their ninth straight disaster deserves, but hope springs eternal in Manhattan's garden.