PHILADELPHIA - Call it the continuing education of a point guard.
Toney Douglas, in his second start in a row, had another solid game last night as the Knicks beat the 76ers, 94-84, at the Wachovia Center.
On Saturday, Douglas outplayed future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd in a 34-point Knicks win. Last night, he was statistically even with fellow rookie Jrue Holiday as the Knicks picked up their second win in a row with Douglas at the helm.
But it was Douglas who got the "W'' and the ultimate point-guard praise from his coach, Mike D'Antoni.
"When he was on the floor," D'Antoni said, "we were better."
Douglas finished with 20 points, shot 7-for-13 and had seven assists, three turnovers, three steals and one rebound. In his 36th start, Holiday - at 19 the youngest player in the NBA - scored a team-high 18 points, shot 7-for-14 and had six assists, three turnovers, three steals and eight rebounds.
Douglas had nine points in the fourth quarter, including a three-pointer after the 76ers pulled to within two and an 18-footer two minutes later to start a 7-0 Knicks run.
"He hit the big three in the corner, he hit the big deuce, made the plays defensively," D'Antoni said. "When he came out of the game, I thought we really dropped off. Just different things that he's doing. He's playing well. He's giving us a lot of energy."
Before re-entering the rotation March 6, Douglas had spent a curious amount of time on D'Antoni's pay-no-mind list. It was odd for a first-round pick on a team without playoff hopes to not be getting minutes, but D'Antoni went with Sergio Rodriguez and Tracy McGrady at the point before turning to Douglas Saturday in Dallas.
Douglas responded with a resplendent 21-point, eight-assist, zero-turnover performance. D'Antoni was not expecting a repeat of that outing last night, but he joined Knicks fans in wanting to see what Douglas could offer.
"He's a rookie, so I don't want to get too far ahead just because he could go back a couple steps," D'Antoni said. "But he showed a lot of promise and we have a lot of games to look at him."
Good point-guard play often is in the eye of the beholder. On one third-quarter possession, Douglas passed to Wilson Chandler at the top of the key. Chandler drove, spun and put up a floater - and Samuel Dalembert swatted it into the first row behind the 76ers' bench. If Dalembert is a step slower, Chandler gets two points - and Douglas gets another assist and an attaboy from his coach.
Douglas later stripped Willie Green and drove for a layup that put the Knicks ahead 66-65. The 76ers called a timeout and Douglas got a lot of attaboys from the Knicks' bench.
"A couple of things are important: Being able to score and being able to defend. He does that," D'Antoni said. "He's also learning to defend and not take a lot of chances, which is a normal process. But the final step is can he run a team, can he get a shot for anybody at any time, and he's learning to do that."
Said Douglas: "If I'm not going good on the offensive end shooting the ball, I can distribute the ball, create for other people. Also, be good on the defensive end. Either way I look at it, I can't have a bad game."
Certainly sounds like a point guard.