You can't win 'em all -- by 39. That is not a problem for the Knicks. So they did not repeat their huge margin from Saturday. Big deal. A mere technicality. They kept the important trends going: a fifth straight win, big nights from Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, and a historic game for Tyson Chandler.
The latter got a big hand when he grabbed his 20th rebound with 6:04 remaining, becoming the first Knick to have three straight 20-rebound games since Willis Reed in 1969. That was the upside in the somewhat lackluster second half of a 99-85 win over the Pistons at the Garden: It was close enough that the starters didn't sit out the whole fourth quarter.
It all capped a 5-0 home stand. More to the point, it was the type of game, Mike Woodson said, "where we come out and hit the other team in the mouth early. It was kind of nice to see."
The first half was pretty much flawless as the Knicks built a 21-point lead. The second half wasn't as crisp -- "We got a little bit happy to be where we were," Woodson said -- but it did allow the key players to stay in the game, which provided a longer look at who the Knicks are and what they feel they can be.
"It's a proven fact that hard work pays off," Stoudemire said after scoring 20 points. "It's great to live it and feel it."
Anthony, who had his single-season club record of consecutive 20-point games end at 31 Saturday largely because the Knicks had a 120-81 laugher over the Kings, started a potential new streak with 27. He was completely in control in his 19-point first half, draining three-pointers and driving and passing at will.
"Coming into this home stand, we wanted to win all these games. We needed to win all these games and they were must-wins for us," Anthony said. "And we approached it like that."
No one's approach has been more beyond reproach lately than Chandler, who has responded to a recent pep talk from Woodson. The coach gave this summarized version to the media Monday night: "You can't be an All-Star in this league if you're not playing like it."
So Chandler, who is an All-Star, has tied a club record for consecutive 20-rebound games, held by Reed (twice), Johnny Green and Walt Bellamy. "I wanted something different,'' Jason Kidd said, a twinkle in his eye. "I wanted a 20-20 game [rebounds and points].''
Chandler was gratified and realistic, recognizing that it has been more than his rebounding that produced the 5-0 stretch: "I think we've played incredible defense, especially the last two games. We really have stepped on teams to start the game."
The thing about the Knicks is that they are so deep, an overmatched team such as Detroit realizes it probably won't catch up because the Knicks keep coming in waves, especially at the Garden. "We really want to take care of our building. We want to make this a tough place for someone to come here and beat us," said Raymond Felton, whose nine assists included two down the stretch after the Pistons cut their deficit to 12.
The Garden crowd loves the depth. Roars when Stoudemire, J.R. Smith and Steve Novak come off the bench rival those when front-row celebrities are introduced. Heck, people even got a kick out of it when Smith (16 points) had the only first-half gaffe: He shot an air ball on a free throw. Woodson wasn't amused, but there were smiles on the bench and in the stands.
It wasn't a 39-point blowout, but really, it was another laugher.