The Knicks’ goals over the next several weeks are fairly obvious: Learn to play together in time for the playoffs, and win some games while doing it, so as to lock up the No. 6 seed in those playoffs, at the very least. With Chancey Billups out of the lineup last night, the Knicks couldn’t fully work on the first of those, but with Toney Douglas filling in, they more than took care of the second in a 107–88 rout of New Orleans.
A late run to close the second quarter extended the Knicks’ lead to ten by the half; by the end of the third quarter, they’d be up by twenty. And let it be known that Douglas (26 points, 4–6 from downtown) outplayed Chris Paul last night — a night on which the Knicks even experimented with playing some defense. (It’s here that we’ll note, for the record, that the Hornets entered the game losers of eleven of fifteen and then played like a team that had lost eleven of fifteen.)
In any case, the Garden crowd had a grand old time, chanting Jared Jeffries’s name at one point — great Jefferies quote afterward on how things have changed since he last played here: “They used to yell for me to get off the court” — and calling for Roger Mason Jr. to get minutes late in the fourth. (After asking the veteran if he wanted to play, Mike D’Antoni inserted Mason into the game for his first action since January 12. He scored five points.)
The win gives the Knicks a bit of breathing room in the standings, extending their lead over the idle Sixers to a game and a half. Next up for the Knicks: the Cavaliers team that beat them last week in Cleveland, tomorrow night at the Garden.