2006-12-15 / Sports

A Night At The Garden For Two NBA Stars

By John J. Buro

NEW YORK -Last Saturday night was supposed to be about how the New York Knicks would defend Michael Redd, the 6’6” guard of the Milwaukee Bucks. At 29.6 points per game, he is the NBA’s third leading scorer.

“Redd is so good at moving without the basketball,” Isiah Thomas said during his pre-game conference, “we’ll depend on a lot of people to guard him. Our big men will, definitely, have to jump out at times, because we don’t want him to get going.”

Thomas elucidated on one of the problems the All-Star guard presents. “The league is predominantly right-handed. So, players are used to shading and challenging shots. Playing a lefty with a quick release, such as him, is very different.”

Redd, a religious man who –according to the Bucks’ Media Guide- aspires to meet Billy Graham, and nearly refused to speak because of a prior spiritual commitment, appeared humbled by his success.

“I tell people [the difference in my game] is because I got married,” he laughed. While the line offered a smile, it just wasn’t so. Since Redd –who averaged 19.6 points over three seasons at Ohio State- was taken in the 2nd Round [43rd overall] of the 2000 Draft, he has increased his scoring every year; he was only married this past summer.

Instead, he provided a simple take on his success. “Just playing basketball. Getting to the rim. Getting to the free throw line. Not settling for jump shots. I want to revert back to the way I had played in college.

Outside the corridor, Terry Stotts, Milwaukee’s second year coach, discounted New York’s dismal home record. He scoffed at their 2-8 start at Madison Square Garden. An aberration, he seemed to imply.

“The Knicks are a dangerous team,” he said. “They’ve got many good players. In this league, with a middle-of-the-road tem, there’s a fine line between winning and losing.”

Among other things, he said that Eddy Curry is getting better with each passing year. Now in his sixth season, the 24 year-old center began the contest with a string of nine consecutive 20-point games, and is pushing for a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. During the streak, he has raised his average more than five points to 17.7 and, in the process, displaced Jamal Crawford as their scoring leader.

The Bucks’ 7’0”, 245, Andrew Bogut, the No. 1 pick of the 2005 Draft, and 6’11, 240, Dan Gadzuric was grossly overmatched by the 6’11”, 285, corn-rowed behemoth. “It was difficult to play him tonight,” Gadzuric reflected. “He’s a big boy. He uses his body real well; he knows what he’s doing. And he sticks with his signature move. It was hard to defend him.”

When New York began to run away with the game, 95-78, at the end of third quarter, it was Curry who electrified the crowd at both ends of the court. He scored 14 points in all, on six-of-seven from inside the paint.After a career-high 36 points, in addition to nine boards and three blocks, Curry departed with 19.1 seconds remaining to a sustained chant of ‘Eddy! Eddy!’

“In this league,” Curry said later, in front of two dozen microphones, “it’s hard to stay on a roll. Score 20 a couple of games in a row and the defense changes. But, the streak does mean a lot to me.”

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