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The Knicks Had a Very Merry Christmas

Hello, friends. It's me, Seth. I'm back once more to help out for the week while Will and Joe battle a lynx infestation in the New York offices. Let us recap the weekend that was for our beloved Knicks, shall we?

The NBA uses Christmas Day to showcase its hottest teams and brightest stars while the rest of us bathe in eggnog. For the second year in a row, the Knicks were included in that bunch, tipping off the five-game slate with a noon matchup against the streaking Bulls. While last season's attempt to rekindle the Knicks-Heat rivalry was ill-fated and perhaps a bit premature, Saturday's battle with the Bulls more or less lived up to its hype. A close, entertaining, and festively colored game ended in a 103–95 Knicks victory.

As is often the case in matinee games, both teams came out of the gates sloppily. After a brick- and turnover-ridden first quarter, though, everybody woke up and played some competent basketball. For the second consecutive game, Amar'e Stoudemire encountered hordes of defenders when he possessed the ball, so other friends had to assume the scoring burden. What resulted was a balanced, fast-paced attack from all eight Knicks. Stoudemire and Raymond Felton each scored twenty. Danilo Gallinari drained three of his four outside attempts, Wilson Chandler was typically effective in transition, and Landry Fields registered yet another double-double with a side of sexiness. The bench made its mark, too, with Shawne Williams and Ronny Turiaf each providing the usual fare (outside shooting and bewhiskered mayhem, respectively) and Toney Douglas doing what Toney Douglas do despite a sore shoulder.

It was defense, though, that bought the Knicks a victory. While relatively average on offense, the Knick co-captains filled the stat sheet on the other end. Felton spearheaded a larcenous backcourt, nabbing five of the team's twelve steals. Stoudemire, meanwhile, was uncannily hostile around the rim. His six blocks anchored an interior defense that rejected more than 20 percent of Derrick Rose's ample attempts. Stoudemire and Rose even exchanged some heated words, undoubtedly to the delight of whichever network executive filled the pregame broadcast with grisly footage of the teams' mid-nineties wars. (The beef didn't exceed a little jawing, leaving one to wonder how an actual fight between the two would unfold. Stoudemire is obviously bigger and stronger, but Rose can probably sting or secrete some sort of venom.) In the fourth quarter, New York mixed the blocks, steals, and mini-beefs (sliders?) with some good old-fashioned intangibles to hold Chicago scoreless for a full eight (!) minutes. That stretch was enough to keep the Bulls at arm's length and send the MSG faithful home full of Christmas cheer.

A pair of convincing wins over Oklahoma City and Chicago was just what New York needed heading into Tuesday's trip to Miami. While the Knicks last met the Heat following their heartbreaking loss to the Celtics, they'll head into this rematch with a nice head of steam. We'll see how that goes.

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Photo: Kathy Willens/AP