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After Lakers, Knicks must guard against letdown vs. Mavs

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The Knicks got a peek at what the Garden could be like when Kobe Bryant and the Lakers came to town Friday night for an electric game that wasn't decided in the defending champions' favor until the fourth quarter.

"There was just a buzz all around the arena," Knicks president Donnie Walsh said Saturday.

This afternoon, the Knicks will get a peek at what might have been had Jason Kidd accepted Walsh's contract offer last summer instead of returning to the Dallas Mavericks for much more money than the Knicks were able to bid.

The Knicks - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - brought Kidd to the Garden for a wine-and-dine session last July that included a video presentation and personalized jersey. But in order for Kidd to wear it, he would have had to take about $7 million less than he eventually got to re-sign with Dallas (three years, $25 million).

"We weren't in a good position financially to make it happen," Walsh said. "Usually the home team is, and they did. They got a heck of a player with him because he's still playing great. He brings intangibles where he has know-how, experience and he's a winning-type guy."

Kidd, who had games of 17 and 15 assists last week, leads the Mavs (28-15) into the Garden for a matinee that will start two hours before the Jets play the Colts in the AFC Championship Game.

The buzz in the arena in the fourth quarter Sunday could be people leaving their seats or using their electronic devices to follow the Jets. Coach Mike D'Antoni said the Knicks could face a letdown after the hard-fought game against the Lakers, and the intensity in the arena could be different from what it was Friday unless the Knicks manage to impose their will on the talented Mavs.

"The Garden was abuzz and there might not be a buzz [today]," he said. "You got the Jets game going on. These are things that we have to guard against. These games are so important to us, you should be able to get up. We need to get up. We'll see what kind of character we have because it does test you a little bit."

The first test will be taken by Chris Duhon, who will be playing against Kidd. Duhon has fallen back into a shooting slump; after going 1-for-9 Friday, he is 4-for-33 (12 percent) in the Knicks' last six games.

"Duhon's only problem is he can't make a shot right now," D'Antoni said. "He's thinking about too much. He just needs to calm down and have confidence. His defense is good, his assists-to-turnovers are good, he's running the team. We score when he's on the floor. Obviously, if he'd make shots, it'd be better."

The Knicks will need extra offense from someone because Nate Robinson is unlikely to play. Robinson strained his right hamstring in the first half Friday and did not return. It's unknown how long he'll be out.

D'Antoni could turn to Larry Hughes, as he did Friday, or rookie Toney Douglas or even Jonathan Bender.

New York Sports