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Knicks reach half on a high

The Knicks closed the first half with their 28th win, matching their average total win total of the previous five seasons.

Knicks 102, Hawks 90

The Knicks closed the first half with their 28th win, matching their average total win total of the previous five seasons.

New York [28-26] won its final game before the All-Star break with arguably its most inspired two-way performance of the season. Unlike in the two earlier matchups, this time the Knicks got off to a fast start and were never really challenged by a Hawks team that was certainly full of bravado in the earlier meetings.

The Knicks silenced the Hawks with an uptempo pace that featured an 18-8 run to end the quarter and stretched its first-half lead to as many as 12. Atlanta [34-21] would respond with 6-0 and 7-0 mini-runs in the second half but were never really a threat.

Amar’e Stoudemire was a threat for the Knicks, as he had 23 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks, while Danilo Gallinari added 17 points and nine rebounds. Raymond Felton chipped in with another double-double of 13 points and 11 assists, while rookie sensation Landry Fields contributed with 11 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. All but one starter reached double-figures scoring, while the much-maligned Knicks bench was efficient as well. They were led by Wilson Chandler’s 20 points and five rebounds, Toney Douglas’s five points, three assists, and no turnovers, Ronny Turiaf’s four points, six rebounds, and a blocked shot, and Shawne Williams’s five points and three rebounds.

The Knicks held the Hawks to 44 percent shooting, while knocking down 48 percent themselves, including 52 points and 52 percent shooting in the first half. It was an efficient game from New York throughout as they tallied 25 assists on 38 made field goals.

As they head into the All-Star break this young team needed such a well-rounded performance – if only to keep the natives from chanting Carmelo Anthony’s name, at least for one game.

What went right ...

Sweet revenge
— Amar’e Stoudemire scored 23 points and solidified the victory with a sweet stuff of Al Horford in the closing minutes. Horford was held to 12 points and outmuscled underneath. His brash ways that carried the Hawks to a pair of nine-point victories over the Knicks earlier this season were replaced by looks of dismay, as Atlanta lost for the third time in four games. It’ll be interesting to see the interaction between these two All-Stars over the weekend, as Stoudemire made it known heading into last night’s matchup that he wasn’t thrilled with Horford’s histrionics.

2 Gallo goes off — Danilo Gallinari played the perfect wingman for Stoudemire, as he registered 17 points, including three 3-pointers. Gallo, whose name has been bandied about during the Carmelo Anthony drama, played as focused and well-rounded a game he’s played all season, adding nine rebounds and grounding the high-flying Josh Smith, who had just 14 points.

3 Getting physical — Defense is usually optional under the Mike D’Antoni regime, but the Knicks — allowing nearly 106 points per game — held the Hawks to 44 percent shooting.

4. A little help -- The Knicks’ bench has been as bad as any unit throughout the season but their main reserves – Wilson Chandler, Ronny Turiaf, Toney Douglas, and Shawne Williams – all played key roles in the win. Chandler registered 20 points and five rebounds, Turiaf had six rebounds and a blocked shot, Douglas added five points, three assists, no turnovers and Williams chipped in with five points and three rebounds. More importantly, he didn't throw any punches like he did in last month's loss in Atlanta.

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