Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Updated: November 24, 5:08 PM ET
If Felton's not 'geeked,' he will be
By Chris Sheridan
NEW YORK -- Raymond Felton doesn't do "geeked." Or so he would have everyone believe.
Playing against the team he helped lead to the playoffs last season, the same team that believed be wasn't worth the $7.5 million the New York Knicks were willing to pay him, Felton stepped to the free-throw line with 2.1 seconds left Tuesday night and his team ahead by a single point.
If he makes 'em both, the Charlotte Bobcats need a 3-pointer to tie. If he makes just one of two, Charlotte can go for the tie or the win. And if he misses 'em both, not only is the victory in jeopardy, but so is the winning streak the Knicks brought back to New York with them after a four-game trip out West.
"I wasn't really geeked. I think I was more calm than anything, trying to get a win and keep the streak going that we've got," Felton said.
The first was good; the second was good, too.
And when Stephen Jackson couldn't get off a game-tying 3-point attempt before the final buzzer sounded, the Knicks walked away with a 110-107 victory over Charlotte on Tuesday night that moved their victory string to four straight.
And on Wednesday in Charlotte, they'll try to make it five in a row -- something no Knicks team has done in nearly five years, since back when Larry Brown was coaching the team -- when Felton returns to the building where he spent his first five NBA seasons.
"It'll be a little more of an excitement because I'm home, my grandma's there and she hasn't seen me play since high school, so it's going to be a little more emotional than anything. But geeked? Nah. It's another game. I'm not looking at it as more than that," Felton said.
Felton had 16 points and nine assists, made all five of his free throws and had several moments in the third quarter when he single-handedly killed any momentum the Bobcats were trying to build as the Knicks went ahead by as many as 16.
But Felton's former understudy, D.J. Augustin (24 points, seven assists, four steals), fueled a 14-2 run at the outset of the fourth quarter that made it a two-point game before Landry Fields made two huge plays that kept the Knicks in control, and Felton's free throws provided the final margin.
"That's my little young fella, it was difficult, but once you're out there it's game time, and I have to fight for my team and he has to win for his," Felton said of Augustin.
The victory was impressive for the Knicks for several reasons:
• They got very little in the second half from Amare Stoudemire (17 points, seven rebounds) as he was saddled with foul trouble, but they found players to make key plays at key moments -- none more so than when Fields stole a lazy outlet pass off a defensive rebound by Charlotte and turned it into a layup, making it 96-91, and followed that up with a putback dunk of a missed shot by Felton to increase the lead to seven. (Fields shot 3-for-3 in a fourth quarter in which the Knicks shot just 6-of-18 as a team.)
• Toney Douglas came off the bench to score a team-high 22 points, going 5-for-7 from 3-point range, and all five starters scored between 12 and 17 points as the Knicks had yet another of the type of balanced scoring attacks that eluded them over the season's first nine games.
• The defense produced 10 steals and nine blocks, two of them by the guy who seems to have permanently taken over the starting center job, Ronny Turiaf (who, by the way, made all six of his shots). The Knicks remained No. 1 in the NBA in shot blocking after finishing 29th in that category last season.
The Knicks now have a chance to duplicate the five-game winning streak that Brown produced back in January 2006 during a season in which the Knicks had 19 players on their roster, including the long-forgotten Antonio Davis, Maurice Taylor, Qyntel Woods, Ime Udoka and Jackie Butler.
"We are getting our confidence, especially down the stretch," Stoudemire said. "We just have to keep that confidence high. We showed some resilience out there in the fourth to keep the lead and maintain and win the game."
If the Knicks can pull off a back-to-back sweep of the Bobcats, the winning streak certainly could grow even bigger. They have a back-to-back set of matinees this weekend, home Saturday against Atlanta and then on the road against Detroit, then begin a six-game stretch that includes just one game against a team with a winning record, New Orleans. (By some strange coincidence, NBA schedule-maker Matt Winick was in attendance.)
So the bottom line is this: Exactly one week after their losing streak reached six games with a disappointing loss at Denver, the Knicks appear to be an entirely different crew that is quickly learning to adapt, come together and thrive as a unit despite having so many new faces from a season ago.
One of those faces belongs to Felton, who was poker faced as he kept repeating how he wasn't "geeked" for this one or the next one.
You can believe him if you want to, but the educated guess here is that Felton was indeed geeked -- and only half as geeked as he's going to be Wednesday night when he's playing back at his old stomping grounds trying to get the Knicks (7-8) back to .500.
Chris Sheridan is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.
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