The unmistakable buzz that filled Madison Square Garden during the last homestand was long gone, replaced by a more laid-back type of vibe - until Nate Robinson started going berserk with the game on the line.
With "Dream Week" and the All-Star break in their rearview mirror, but their six-game losing streak still in tow, the Knicks got back to work last night with a 112-107 overtime victory over the Manu Ginobili-less San Antonio Spurs, beginning the quest to somehow sneak through a side door and back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture with 30 games left.
There were some moments late in the fourth quarter, however, when it appeared the Knicks still have a lot to learn if they want to fulfill their postseason aspirations.
One would think the Knicks learned their lesson in Portland on Feb. 8, when coach Mike D'Antoni admitted he "screwed up" by not knowing the Knicks had a foul to give in the closing seconds of the Knicks' brutal loss, a costly gaffe that ultimately led to Brandon Roy's layup falling through the net at the buzzer. The Knicks almost topped that last night, when David Lee fouled Tim Duncan with 3.1 seconds remaining. Problem was, it was Lee's sixth foul of the game and he was the best defender on Duncan.
"I took one for the team there and got my sixth foul," Lee said. "But it kept them from scoring and that's what's most important."
Robinson's alter ego, "Krypto-Nate", made it all moot. Robinson scored 12 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter and netted the Knicks' first six points of overtime to remain 3 1/2 games behind Milwaukee in the race for the eighth and final spot in the conference.
"You kind of expect that out of him every night," D'Antoni said, referring to Robinson's incredible rescue job, which came on the heels of last week's 33-point, 15-assist showing against the Clippers in Los Angeles.
Robinson's explosive second half probably even had Charles Dolan smiling. The Cablevision chairman made a rare appearance, sitting courtside. He had a front-row seat to watch Robinson, whose bucket with 2:31 left in the extra five-minute session gave the Knicks (22-31) the lead for good at 106-104.
Lee chalked up his 17th consecutive double-double and No. 42 of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Chris Duhon and Wilson Chandler had 17 points apiece for the Knicks.
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