On Monday night, Tim Hardaway Jr. was being ferried around the Knicks' locker room in a wheelchair after spraining his right ankle in Utah.
Last night,, however, he scored a very healthy 10 points off the bench in the first half to help set the tone for what would become a 110-81 romp over the Nets at Madison Square Garden.
Co-starring with Hardaway was fellow reserve Iman Shumpert, who had four steals in the first half and did everything he could to make Nets point guard Deron Williams have a difficult night. Williams, the one guard on the court who has been to an All-Star Game, did not have a single assist, only the second time this season he has gone without one.
Tyson Chandler praised Hardaway and Shumpert. "When they come in and bring the type of energy they bring, getting out in the open court, not only knocking down shots but penetrating and getting layups, it kick-started our offense,'' he said.
Hardaway, who didn't decide he could play until 90 minutes before the game, had 17 points for the night and shot 7-for-10. It continued his recent stretch of impressive play. During the last 15 games, the Knicks have gone 12-3 with Hardaway averaging 11.1 points.
During the Knicks' 20-2 run that bridged the first and second quarters and took control of the game, he scored eight points.
The game was one of the best Shumpert has played all season, recalling some of his performances last year, when he was a defensive force. Shumpert, who had five steals and 10 points, got the run going when he stole the ball twice from Williams during a 12-second stretch near the end of the first quarter.
"Without a doubt, I thought he played tremendous coming off the bench,'' Mike Woodson said of Shumpert. "I kind of rolled into the game with an eight-man rotation tonight and our bench was really good."
Hardaway also believed it was Shumpert who really got the team going, inspiring everyone else to play their hardest in a game the Knicks needed. They moved into a virtual tie with the collapsing Hawks for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.
"It started off with Shump,'' Hardaway said. "He did a great job of setting the tone for the entire team.''