Douglas hits mark in much-needed win

NEW YORK -- The coach was joking when he said people needed to start taking Prozac to cut down on the hysteria regarding his up-and-down New York Knicks.

Perhaps Mike D'Antoni should have prescribed Antivert, which fights motion sickness.

Better yet, if he could just find a way to make his team defense and Toney Douglas' shooting stroke have some semblance of consistency, the drug humor could all just go away.

Douglas tied a team record by making nine 3-pointers as the worries about the Knicks' defensive capabilities were fogged over for a night, with D'Antoni's team playing the best they have in more than a week in defeating the Memphis Grizzlies 120-99 on Thursday night.

"It means a lot any time you have to stop the bleeding, and when there is a sense of urgency, we have played well," D'Antoni said after New York ended its three-game losing streak and presumably silenced some of the critics who were unprepared for what a roller-coaster ride the finishing stretch of this turbulent season was going to be.

As a team, the Knicks set a franchise record with 20 3-pointers and improved to 7-6 since pulling off the trade to acquire Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups from the Denver Nuggets, who have ended up being the team that has gotten the bigger short-term boost since the three-team, 14-player deal was consummated.

The Knicks remain right where they've been since before the trade, sitting precariously in the sixth position in the Eastern Conference, one eye on the Philadelphia 76ers, who are chasing them, another eye on the top half of the conference standings where their eventual playoff opponent currently resides.

There have been nights like this when they've looked like world-beaters, nights at the other end of the spectrum when they've looked utterly lost, and nights in between when games have gone down to the buzzer.

Most puzzling is that there is no telling what Knicks team is going to show up from one night to the next, and that sense of uncertainty has fueled the atmosphere of anxiety that D'Antoni spoke of prior to the game.

"You know, it's great. They care," said D'Antoni, who often uses humor to deflate tension. "And, uh, take some Prozac or something. Hang in there. We're pedaling as fast as we can pedal. Obviously there are some deficiencies and holes, and obviously our defense has gotten a little worse, and we've got to get better. We got to work at it, break some sweat. We [have] some things to solve.

"But the biggest thing is not to exaggerate where we are."

Where they are is 13 games into a new era, an era in which Anthony (28 points) and Amare Stoudemire (16 points, nine rebounds) are going to carry them on most nights, but they are still going to need an extra boost from someone with a little less stature.

On this night that player was Douglas, who wore a pair of electric green Adidas sneakers to compliment the Knicks' green St. Patrick's Day uniforms. He put up a total of 14 shots, 10 of which were money.

Only Latrell Sprewell (twice) and John Starks had ever made nine 3-pointers in a game for the Knicks before, and Douglas' performance removed some of the tension from a building -- and a metropolitan area -- that was feeling lots of it as the evening began with the three-game losing streak and the Knicks' recent defensive struggles hanging over their collective heads.

"We've got to get to the playoffs. That's our goal, and we know it's a little bit of a process," D'Antoni said. "We're 6-6 since the trade, we've lost four games we shouldn't have, and if we were 10-2 we'd be OK, and we're not.

"You know what the problem is?" D'Antoni continued. "We've shown some really good stuff and we've shown some good defense [by winning in Atlanta and Miami]. Then we've shown some nights when we couldn't stop anybody. Sometimes it's the level of intensity that we have, and sometimes when guys come into a new city it's the little things: They're not settled, they don't have their house ready. You go on the road and you come back and you're not in a routine, and it catches up with you energy-wise and focus-wise. We had Chauncey [Billups] in, then out, then in, and we had to adjust to that. So these guys have been through a lot.

"But the biggest thing, and I'll just keep repeating, is we're not going to get caught up in the hysteria. We're going to play as well as we can, get it together and hang in as a group, try an make the playoffs and try to do as good as we can."

It was about as close to a rant as D'Antoni has come all season, and the word "hysteria" was immediately thrown back at him.


"Well, I exaggerate like you guys," D'Antoni said. "I don't know. Just a little unease."

Whether "unease" was a better word or not is immaterial.

The 7-6 record really doesn't matter, nor does the Nuggets' 10-2 record since they dealt Anthony away.

"It's a natural thing to compare it," D'Antoni said, "but I don't think that's fair after six or eight or 12 games. Wait two or three years and see what happens."

He makes a decent point.

By then, the Knicks will have either put their fans on Prozac or given them a genuine endorphin rush. Either way, there's no need to rush the rush that will eventually arrive, whether it's a good high or a bad trip.

In the meantime, everybody should stop every now and then and simply take a deep breath. Right now, the prescription for coping with the Knicks is to exercise some patience.