West trip turns into 3-1 slam dunk for Knicks
LOS ANGELES - In another era, Clippers rookie Blake Griffin might have been planted on the hardwood after his first monster dunk Saturday night against the Knicks. But the NBA has discouraged such practices with the flagrant-foul rule, and regardless, Mike D'Antoni doesn't subscribe to the "No Layups'' mentality.
And when it was suggested to him that perhaps Timofey Mozgov should be more aggressive when defending the rim and use his six fouls - especially to avoid the embarrassment of being on the wrong end of a play like that third-quarter dunk by Griffin, an instant YouTube sensation - D'Antoni practically pleaded with reporters to not make this a topic of conversation with the 7-1 Russian rookie.
"We'll talk to him; leave me to do it," D'Antoni said. "I'm just afraid that - don't say nothing to him, please, let us coach him. If anybody knows Russian, just keep it quiet."
The way the Knicks exacted revenge was in how they responded: by quelling momentum with a big play of their own after each big play by Griffin (44 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists). And although Griffin may have dominated the "SportsCenter" highlights, the result was a 124-115 Knicks win that sent them home riding a three-game winning streak.
"I'm going to say something plain and simple: I will take getting dunked on for the rest of the year, every single game, if we get the win," said Ronny Turiaf, who was on the wrong end of Monta Ellis' dunk Friday night against Golden State. "How about that?"
That approach was one of several signs of growth during this 3-1 road trip, which helped the Knicks (6-8) get back on the right track after six straight losses.
"We showed we are tougher mentally than what people may think," Turiaf said.
Sure, the schedule afforded them some much-needed opportunity, with the woeful Kings, a Warriors team without David Lee and the Clippers, now 1-13, who started three rookies and were without veterans Baron Davis and Chris Kaman.
But the Knicks were struggling so much before this trip, they lost to the 76ers without Andre Iguodala and the Rockets without Aaron Brooks and Yao Ming. And the team's lack of urgency about winning concerned Amar'e Stoudemire enough to speak up about it. "I was never concerned about players; it was just about effort and everyone being able to step up and become better players and a better team, and we did," said Stoudemire, who had 39 points against the Clipers. "We showed how good we can be."
Danilo Gallinari added 31 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter. Raymond Felton had 20 points and seven assists.
D'Antoni made some adjustments with the offense and was pleased with the results, but on defense, he said, "We've got a ways to go yet. It's a little bit of a work in progress."
Notes & quotes: Donnie Walsh was released from a Manhattan hospital Friday after Tuesday's hip surgery. He will spend the first phase of his recovery at his Manhattan apartment and work from there.