There was actually some spirit at Madison Square Garden on Monday night that had nothing to do with a visiting player. Rookie guard Toney Douglas had led the team back from 21 points down in the third quarter to tie the game with less than two minutes to play, and the assembled voices were chanting and screaming for the home team to finish the job. But the Jazz scored with 1:16 to go and Douglas missed a leaner at the buzzer to make all their cheering amount to nothing.
Douglas scored 21 points in 23 minutes to make himself, and not a seventh loss in eight games, the story of the game. Moral victories don't really have a place beyond high school, but you can't blame the Knicks or their fans for grasping at any straw that seems to lead to oxygen instead of the suffocating misery that has become the team's specialty. Real victories still seem to be miles away, no matter how much enthusiasm can be manufactured by one strong half from an undersized rookie.
That's not really fair to Douglas, who played very well and scored in a variety of ways. The latter is a particularly novel approach on a team that's adopted the motto "We settle for more jump shots before the second quarter than most teams do all night." Just because it isn't fair doesn't mean it isn't true, however. The Knicks got back into this game by playing a zone, giving up the outside shot and surviving because the Jazz are playing without Kyle Korver. That's not an actual recipe for success in professional basketball, nor is it a sign that Douglas will fix all that ails the Knicks.
Douglas can probably be a piece of a decent team, but he's not remotely considered a game-changer unless his team is already under the misguided notion that Chris Duhon is good enough to be a starting point guard in the NBA.
Douglas, then, is actually a symptom of the lack of concern for the Knicks of today that we discussed in this space on Monday. D'Antoni's entire offensive philosophy flows from the point guard and the Knicks cared so little about the position that they entrusted it to Duhon and Nate Robinson. Douglas may well be an upgrade on those two players. Let's just wait to hold the parade until he has a game where he dishes more than one assist in 23 minutes. After all, Robinson's had plenty of selfish scoring binges that excited fans during games the Knicks wound up losing anyway.
A curmudgeonly take on a breakout night for a rookie? Perhaps, but man can only feast on the D'Antoni/Donnie Walsh brand of moral victories for so long before actually wanting some meat in his diet.