Just as easy as the New York Knicks made it look in building a 25 point halftime lead, it was that much easier to blow such a lead against a much inferior team.
Tyson Chandler had 10 points and six rebounds, including six points in the final quarter to lead all Knicks' players, to help New York defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 90-83 in the season opener for the Knickerbockers. With the the team trailing by one late in the game, Chandler was able to rescue his squad with a putback slam off a missed Carmelo Anthony shot with 2:36 lead that gave them the lead for good.
"I wanted to play with energy." said Chandler. " At that point I knew my team needed something. I was trying to provide a big play for the team."
Anthony then scored back-to-back baskets with a huge tip-in and another basket in the paint to make it 86-81. After a Bucks basket, Chandler dunked again to make it 88-81. Anthony led all players with 19 points and 10 rebounds as the Knicks were able to hold on for their first victory of the season.
"We had to buckle down and get back to how we started the game," said Anthony. " We had a lapse in that third quarter giving up 33 points. At the end of the day, they are professionals and an NBA team. They never gave up tonight."
Anthony took six shots in the first half and ended up with only 16 for the evening. That many shot attempts is not what made Anthony the scoring champion last season, and may not good enough for this team to be where it wants to be.
"It wasn't them, " said Anthony. "For me, I was trying to see what everyone else was about and try to give everyone else a chance to fill in. As far as scoring the ball, I can do that. I wanted to get everyone else going."
Before things started to get real close, the Knicks played an almost flawless first half in building a 56-31 halftime lead. They shot 57 percent in the first two quarters, while forcing the Bucks to commit 16 turnovers and make just 36 percent of their shots.
" We were really aggressive turning up those guys over in the first half," said Raymond Felton, who added 18 points. "Getting after them and getting the ball up and down the court and playing fast."
After toying for most of the preseason with starting Andrea Bargnani at power forward in a big lineup, Woodson decided to bring Bargnani off the bench and start Prigioni in the backcourt in a small lineup. The move paid off as Prigioni finished with seven points and five assists, while Bargnani continued to his struggles from the preseason shooting only 3-9 for six points. New York won 13 in a row, and 16 of their final 18 regular season games with Prigioni starting.
"This unit is kind of battle tested from last season, " said Woodson. "This was the unit we started down the stretch..the 13 game winning streak we had. They are battle tested defensively and we made every defensive play we had to make. We had to have that in order to secure the win."
New York will now head to Chicago to play the second game of a back-to-back tomorrow night, and knows it needs to play a more complete game if they want to come away with the victory.
"There's definitely things we can learn, and like I told the guys coming into the locker room, we want to put teams away, especially, you know, you're going into a back-to-back, so you have an opportunity to rest," Chandler said. "But like I say, at the end of the day, learning experience, and I'd rather learn with a win than a loss."