DALLAS - In a rematch against the team that embarrassed them at the Garden by 50 points, one night after they gave one of their worst efforts of the season (at least for three quarters), the Knicks put up one of their most impressive victories of the season last night, beating the Mavericks, 128-94.
After acquiring Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson from the Wizards before the trade deadline, the Mavericks were viewed as possible championship contenders who could challenge the Lakers in the West. Not Saturday night, though.
Rookie Toney Douglas, who was a catalyst in a fourth-quarter rally that fell just short in Friday's loss to the Grizzlies in Memphis, was moved into the starting lineup and once again pushed the pace. He had 21 points and eight assists with zero turnovers - perhaps the most impressive number - in 31 minutes and played pressure defense against Jason Kidd.
Another one of the team's intriguing young talents, Bill Walker, had a career-high 23 points to lead the Knicks (23-43), who had four players score at least 20 points. Wilson Chandler had 22 points and Al Harrington 20 for the Knicks, who led by 37 points late in the fourth quarter and shot a sizzling 56.2 percent from the field in the game. David Lee added 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Dirk Nowitzki had 20 points and 12 rebounds for Dallas (45-22) but shot 5-for-13 from the field (10-for-10 from the line) and looked very frustrated most of the night against an aggressive Knicks double-team. Kidd finished with a very ordinary 15 points, six assists and five rebounds in 38 minutes.
Douglas made his third start of the season and first since Nov. 18. Only four games ago, he was not even in the rotation. It was the 12th different starting lineup used by Mike D'Antoni this season.
"We're looking at different people and we're giving a chance to him now," D'Antoni said. "He deserves it."
D'Antoni, who was furious with the poor collective effort the Knicks gave in the first half of Friday's loss in Memphis, was pleased with how Douglas brought a competitive intensity to the second half. His energy played a major role as the Knicks cut a 29-point deficit late in the third quarter to five in the final minute against the Grizzlies.
"I love running and gunning," Douglas said. "We get easy buckets like that."
At this point in the season, it's a wonder D'Antoni didn't give minutes to Douglas sooner, especially because he was constantly urging his players to try to get more transition baskets. It seems Sergio Rodriguez has proven he isn't quite a starter - in fact, he didn't even play in Saturday's game; it was his first DNP since being acquired on Feb. 18. Chris Duhon, who hasn't played since Feb. 20, saw some minutes instead.
D'Antoni seemed to suggest before the game that the job could be Douglas' through the rest of the season. Now it might be a lock.
"Right now," D'Antoni said, "it's his spot."