Believe it or not, defensive play caps Knicks' win

The Knicks' Wilson Chandler, left, ties up Atlanta's

The Knicks' Wilson Chandler, left, ties up Atlanta's Al Horford during the second quarter. The Knicks beat Atlanta, 99-98, after Horford's last-second basket was rule to have come after the buzzer. (Mar. 8, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

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Wilson Chandler said the play was pure instinct, but for the Knicks, it was pure vintage. Really, when was the last time the Knicks made a great defensive play at the rim, let alone one that decided a game?

Chandler met Josh Smith as he elevated at the rim with 1.7 seconds left for a game-saving block, providing a thrilling ending to a 99-98 win over the Atlanta Hawks last night at the Garden.

"It was all instinct," Chandler said. "I think he's a stronger jumper from the other side than he is from that side."

Chandler's block was one of only two the Knicks had in the game. The Hawks still managed 54 points in the paint, but the Knicks' overall defensive effort was far better than what the team has shown recently.

The Hawks believed they had won the game when Al Horford's putback of the block initially was called good by the officiating crew. But video replay showed the ball still was in Horford's hands when the final buzzer sounded, which overruled the call on the court, negated the basket and gave the Knicks the victory.

"It wasn't close and I knew it wasn't close," Mike D'Antoni said. "Thank goodness for instant replay."

Rookie Toney Douglas saw some rare extensive playing time (23:43) with Tracy McGrady sitting out because of fatigue. Douglas was in down the stretch and lost the ball on a drive to the basket with 7.9 seconds left to set up the final play.

Danilo Gallinari led the Knicks (22-41) with 27 points and David Lee had 19 points and 13 rebounds. Smith had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Hawks (40-23).

McGrady took his first night off since joining the Knicks on Feb. 18. He is expected to be ready for tomorrow's game against the Spurs in San Antonio. "He just said he was sore," D'Antoni said. "His body was just dead and it would be better if he took the night off."

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