Wilson Chandler was out for the second straight game with a nagging groin injury, David Lee was a late scratch with knee tendinitis and Eddie House watched from the sideline with a sore Achilles. And to top things off, Jonathan Bender, starting for the first time this season, fractured his finger in the first half and is now out for the season.
But it was no problem. The Knicks still had Toney Douglas.
The rookie point guard, making his fourth straight start, couldn't be stopped down the stretch as he racked up 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Knicks to a thrilling 93-88 come-from behind-victory over the Philadelphia Sixers Friday night at Madison Square Garden. His defense also wasn't too bad in the closing minutes either.
"That was a pretty good fourth quarter," Coach Mike D'Antoni said with a smile. "I didn't know he could do that."
Despite playing with five fouls in the fourth quarter, Douglas stayed aggressive on both ends of the floor and carried the Knicks with several clutch plays. At one point he even scored 13 straight points for the Knicks, including a trio of 3-pointers and a breakaway layup off a nice steal to give the Knicks an 89-86 lead with 55 seconds remaining.
He sealed the game with another steal 13 seconds later that led to a pair of Bill Walker free throws.
"I had some foul-trouble issues and I just wanted to be aggressive when I got back on the court in the fourth quarter," said Douglas, who also had five rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals. "I just wanted to win so bad."
Douglas was the hero of the night, but he wasn't the only former Florida State guard to receive a standing ovation. Charlie Ward, who helped lead the Knicks to the 1999 NBA Finals, sat courtside to watch Douglas and walked away impressed with what he saw from a fellow Seminole.
"He just happens to be one of those guys that plays hard-nosed," Ward said. "He has to find his niche here and learn his role. Playing defense and making hustle plays and tough plays is something we all should do, and if he can do consistently what he's been doing, he will find a place on the roster."
Douglas' defense, along with his energy and determination, is one of the reasons why the Knicks liked the 23-year-old enough to acquire him with the 29th overall pick in last June's draft from the Lakers. Douglas, who played sparingly until two weeks ago, is learning how to run the Knicks' offensive and proved that he can score when needed as well.
"He has some ice water in his veins," D'Antoni said.