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Gallinari is learning defense the hard way

New York Knicks #8 Danilo Gallinari watches a

New York Knicks #8 Danilo Gallinari watches a shot drop in against the New Jersey Nets. (March 6, 2010) Photo Credit: Photo by JASON DECROW

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Danilo Gallinari saw the benefit of being engaged in a battle with Manu Ginobili deep into crunch time against the Spurs Wednesday night in San Antonio.

"It means a lot," he said. "Especially means a lot when Ginobili is kicking my --."

Ginobili, guarded most of the game by Gallinari, had 28 points, including a key floater to make it 85-82 with 3:33 left and a three-pointer a minute later to open a seven-point lead.

Gallinari had eight of his 14 points in that fourth quarter to keep the Knicks in it, but he was critical of his defense. "If I think about this game, I think about him playing one-on-one with me," he said. "I definitely have to do a better job with that."

Gallinari, with swift feet and very long arms, has the tools to keep his man in front of him. A few times against Ginobili (whom many defenders struggle to contain), he seemed to funnel him to the right looking for help or a trap that wasn't there. But Gallinari wouldn't pass the buck.

"It's always tough to guard him, but I think I could have made a better job," he said. "I like to play defensive games against his type of players, but tonight I didn't do a good job."

Though outsiders judge Gallinari, the sixth overall pick in 2008, by his offense, the 21-year-old wants to be recognized for what he can do on the other end. So once it became clear the remaining games would be reduced to playing out the schedule and developing players, he went to Mike D'Antoni and made a request.

"Every game, to play defense against the best, that's what I asked Mike and that's what I'm trying to do," Gallinari said. "Sometimes it comes out better and sometimes not."

His recent matchups have included LeBron James, Joe Johnson and Ginobili. Friday night against Memphis, it'll be either O.J. Mayo or Rudy Gay. "I really like those kind of challenges," he said.

Notes & quotes: The Knicks didn't practice Thursday because the team didn't arrive here from San Antonio until early in the morning, thanks to tornado warnings and thunderstorms in the area. Eddy Curry, who pulled himself out of Wednesday's game because of calf muscle soreness, received treatment Thursday and will test the leg in today's morning shoot-around. He'll be a game-time decision.

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