A personal moment for three Italian friends who shared the Garden floor Friday night turned into a personal battle for one David Lee, who matched up against an all-star who potentially could replace him in New York as a free agent this summer.
Subplots aside, the Knicks found themselves overwhelmed by the hot-shooting Raptors in a 112-104 loss. It was their third loss in four games.
Lee, who played with a great deal of snarl in the game, went the entire 48 minutes for the Knicks (16-23) and had 25 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. Al Harrington scored 31 points off the bench, 24 of which came in the second half, and Danilo Gallinari, on Italian Heritage Night, had 26.
Gallinari's friend and fellow Italian, Andrea Bargnani, had 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Raptors (20-20) and Jose Calderon had 21 points off the bench. The two totaled 8-for-9 shooting from three-point range as Toronto shot 53.4 percent and was 12-for-22 from downtown.
Early in the game, Lee was so fired up after a dunk that he danced in front of Bargnani, who on a previous play roared and pumped his fist after a dunk. Lee was hit with a technical foul for taunting. The Raptors' bench jawed with Lee, who had a few words with Bosh but nothing more.
Lee said he didn't have any real issue with Bargnani and that the move was meant to fire up his teammates. The Knicks started out flat defensively.
"We were dead," Chris Duhon said of the first half. "We needed life."
Toronto hit 8 of 14 from beyond the arc in the first half, including four by Bargnani, and took a 67-43 halftime lead after a 39-point first quarter. The Knicks trailed by as many as 28 in the second quarter but scored 37 points in the third. Then they scored the first five points of the fourth, closing to within 93-85 on a three-pointer by Nate Robinson with 10:32 left.
That's when Calderon, who scored 12 points in the second quarter, hit consecutive jumpers. The Knicks' offense sputtered again and they never could get closer than 10.
Chris Bosh, the aforementioned all-star and pending free agent who battled Lee most of the night, had 18 points in 30:55 and shot 7-for-10 from the field.
And, oh yes, there was a little something extra from Lee's end. "I was definitely aware of it defensively," Lee said. "Offensively, I tried to just continue to be aggressive. Defensively, I really wanted to do a good job guarding him and I think I did a good job. For him to have 18 points and four rebounds is pretty good."
Bosh said he does think about his pending free agency "every now and then," but then again, he's not even sure he'll be a Raptor by the end of the season, let alone July. "I don't know. I just play basketball and whatever happens happens," he said.
The Raptors have yet to offer a contract extension to Bosh, though it doesn't sound as if he is interested in any major decisions during the season. "I don't want to take on any extra baggage right now," he said, "because my plate is full."