NEW YORK -- There was a stretch during the first half of the 2010-11 season when people said Nuggets small forward Danilo Gallinari needed to penetrate more, to stop shooting so many threes.
They were partially right because the Knicks needed another free-throw threat besides Amare Stoudemire. STAT, like Carmelo Anthony this season, was mostly on his own at the stripe. Then things changed. Gallo started getting to the line more at the end of January. From Jan. 27 to to Feb. 9, he had four games where he took at least 10 free-throw attempts.
But then Gallo was included in a packaged deal two weeks later for Anthony, which shipped him to Denver. That's where he upped his free-throw attempts from 6.0 per game in New York to 7.2 in Denver to close his 2011 campaign.
While Gallo's FT attempts are down so far this season, to 5.1 per game, he showed off that improved attack mode tonight in the Nuggets' 119-114 double-overtime win over the Knicks. Running the point-forward throughout the game, like Melo for the Knicks, he looked to use his 6-10, 225-pound size to try to out-muscle the Knicks' star small forward, who's shorter at 6-8, attacking the basket.
And it worked. Gallo went to the line a career-high 20 times, making 18, and he finished with 11 rebounds and a career-high 37 points (his previous high was 31, which he matched three times). Gallo's biggest buckets came with four seconds remaining in the second overtime, when he iced the game with two free throws. It was those same shots that Knicks fans wanted him to take more last season.
In the Knicks' postgame locker room, there wasn't much surprise from Anthony, who said "Gallo is a great player," or Gallo's former teammate, Amare Stoudemire.
"Gallo was insane when he played with me," STAT said. "He's a phenomenal player. I said that when I first got here. He showed up tonight."
After the game, Nuggets head coach George Karl had an interesting explanation for Gallo's success getting to the stripe.
"I thought on Gallo's penetration he was getting fouled," he said. "Andre [Miller], Ty [Lawson], Gallo and also Rudy [Fernandez] have a lot of responsibility for us to make plays, and I just thought Gallo was the best guy in that situation, especially because it seemed like they were hitting him hard."
Facing Melo might have added to Gallo's extra gear tonight, but he didn't drop any hints that sadness or bitterness because of the trade were factors in his breakthrough performance. However, Karl could sense Gallo was out to prove the Knicks made a mistake.
"Gallo has a quiet confidence to him and I could actually tell he was looking forward to this game," he said. "I think he enjoyed playing there. I think he was somewhat disappointed to be traded, but I think now it's time to move on and build his career in a positive way as a Denver Nugget."
The extra motivation that Gallo did have was mostly because of the setting, returning to the Garden for the first time since the trade.
"It's a special place to play," he said. "Having these games here is great, but the most important thing is that we won the game."
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