WHAT IT MEANS: A humbling, excruciating loss. There were definitely some positive vibes going through the Garden, especially when the home team went ahead by nine points with five minutes left. But it was a choke job for the Knicks from that point on as they were outscored 17-3 the rest of the way.
Two things were particularly worrisome: Amare Stoudemire almost never touched the ball in the fourth quarter, scoring just two points. When he did end up with the ball, isolated against Marcus Camby with eight seconds left, Camby knocked it from his hands and out of bounds on a drive, and the referees reversed the original call and awarded the ball to Portland after ruling it last touched Stoudemire's thigh.
The other negative was Danilo Gallinari's continued struggles. He shot 2-for-9, missed all of his outside shots, including three 3-point attempts, and was benched for the final 18½ minutes.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Our buddy Marc Berman of the New York Post has already christened him the runaway leader for the NBA's Sixth Man Award, and Wilson Chandler certainly looked worthy of that distinction during an impressive second-quarter burst in which he produced 13 points and eight rebounds (four on the offensive end) to help New York recover from an early 12-point deficit. Chandler finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds.
Bill Walker merits mention, too, for his two 3-pointers midway through the fourth, the second of which gave New York its largest lead, 92-83.
MOZGOV MOMENT: Timofey Mozgov, introduced by ring announcer Michael Buffer as "From Russia With Love" in a pregame ceremony, got no love from referee Ed Malloy, who whistled him for a questionable tap on the arm foul against LaMarcus Aldridge, then slapped Mozgov with a technical for gesturing as he complained. In the early going, Mozgov did an admirable job defending Aldridge, who seemed to be going out of his way to draw contact (and the usual accompanying anti-rookie whistle) from Mozgov, who stayed vertical in those instances.
RUDY SOUNDS HAPPY: Portland guard Rudy Fernandez, who the Knicks, Celtics and Bulls tried to acquire over the summer, was a non-factor in this game with just three points in 16 minutes. Prior to the game, he told Adrianno Torres of ESPNDeportes he is happier in Portland than he was at the start of training camp, when he said he wanted to be released from his contract so he could return to the Spanish League.
"Right now I'm on this team. I have a contract with them, so therefore I'm totally willing to only play for this coach and this team," Fernandez said. "I think I have the chance to play a lot of minutes and play some quality minutes. I've demonstrated it in the preseason games and already in the last two games. I've never had a problem coming off the bench. What's really important is helping the team in that aspect.
"I think the coach is happy. The team has shown a lot of confidence in me. I feel at home. They've helped me out a lot. I have the opportunity to play in the best league in the world. That's something that few people can say."
CROSS-PROMOTION: The folks running MSG are big into cross-promoting their brands (they've had the Rockettes perform at Knicks games, as MSG also owns Radio City Music Hall, where those long-legged women get their kicks in), and they've apparently decided to do the same for the Rangers (of the NHL, not the ones playing in the World Series). The Rangers' first two goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs were replayed on the videoboard, and the crowd didn't really have much of a response.
IN THE HOUSE: The celebrity crowd was headlined by music mogul Russell Simmons, who had the best seats in the house (courtside opposite the scorer's table, next to the broadcast table). Other celebs included actors Michael J. Fox, Tracy Morgan, Elizabeth Banks and Steve Schirripa, along with ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
WHAT'S NEXT: Home game No. 2 against Orlando on Tuesday night. Last season, the Magic swept the season series 3-0. Magic assistant coach Patrick Ewing is assured of a warm reception.