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Knicks' Duhon backs up toughness in beating Bulls

The Knicks soon may have their own version of the famous Shepard Fairey poster that depicts Barack Obama's image with the word "Hope."

They could use rookie Danilo Gallinari, the 20-year-old lottery pick who finally is showing some dynamic potential.

Or they could go with Chris Duhon, whose connection to the president-elect has been well-documented and whose gritty resolve as he played through back pain willed the Knicks to a 102-98 win over the Chicago Bulls yesterday at the Garden.

"He gutted it out, which I expected him to do," Mike D'Antoni said of his point guard, who scored 12 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and had four points in 8.4 seconds to give the Knicks a 101-98 lead.

"For me, I know exactly what he's going through ... Going through back problems and having back spasms and that stuff, I tip my hat to him," Quentin Richardson said. "I definitely appreciate it and tell him that every day."

The Knicks are 17-6 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a matinee tradition that started with the inception of the national holiday Jan. 20, 1986.

After Tyrus Thomas missed an easy putback that would have given the Bulls a three-point lead, Duhon used a pick from David Lee and drove the left baseline around Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich for a tough layup with 31.2 seconds left that put the Knicks ahead 99-98.

Bulls rookie Derrick Rose was short on a drive against Wilson Chandler and the Bulls fouled Duhon, who nailed both free throws with 22.8 seconds left to make it 101-98. Ben Gordon ended a terrible shooting day (3-for-15) with an air ball on a fall-away three-pointer over Lee with 11.8 seconds left.

Richardson led the Knicks with 24 points, including a critical three-pointer off a broken play with 2:15 left to tie it at 97.

Rose had 20 points and eight assists in a solid Garden debut, though the No. 1 overall pick did have competition for the crowd's adoration. Gallinari once again had the Garden faithful roaring with every play he made. The Italian forward, who was taken sixth overall by the Knicks, had nine points, four rebounds and two assists in 16:24, including a stretch in the fourth quarter when he had the crowd of 18,807 in a frenzy.

Gallinari drilled a three from the corner, then blocked Rose on a drive and sent a quick outlet to Nate Robinson for a fast-break layup to give the Knicks an 87-81 lead.

Along with an accented pronunciation of his last name by PA announcer Mike Walczewski, a few bars of "Volare" and "That's Amore" were blared with every basket Gallinari made, which included a two-handed dunk on the break with 10:20 left in the fourth.

"I was glad he made the dunk ... and he was able to finish it," Lee, the usual fan favorite, said of Gallinari. "I know he's been itching to be out there, so everything he does is positive and our team is very excited for him."

Lee had 11 points and 10 rebounds but played the second half with a right ankle sprain. He likely will take today off from practice but said he will play tomorrow against the Suns.

"It's not going to be that big of a deal," said Lee, who played through bone spurs in his ankles early in the season. "When I came down on it, it hurt quite a bit. After I got retaped, I was fine."

Duhon also likely will get today off to rest his aching back. He could have used it as an opportunity to witness history, as he was offered an invitation to the inauguration ceremonies in Washington.

"I decided not to go," he said. "I want to do some stuff for my back and it's going to be a little crazy out there. We have a game the next day, so I want to make sure we don't have any episodes like I've had in the past with the back."

Tomorrow

Suns at

Knicks

7:30 p.m.

TV: MSG

Radio: WEPN

(1050)

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