April 20, 2004 -- The Nets put Tim Thomas into the hospital and perhaps out of the Lincoln Tunnel Series. The Knicks' level of anger continued to rise yesterday and center Dikembe Mutombo vowed revenge in Game 2 tonight at the Meadowlands.
The Knicks finally analyzed the tape of Jason Collins' controversial foul on airborne Thomas, who is out tonight. "Nobody's happy," Mutombo said. "We came out [of the film room] disappointed to let something like that happen to our friend. We're in a war now and they just shot one of us down.
"We looked at it," added Mutombo, a former teammate of Collins. "It's the playoffs now. Forget about how much you know the person. He was a good teammate. I don't know if it was intentional what he did to Tim Thomas, but it left a bad taste in our mouth. Tim is one of our primary scorers and we feel very bad about what [Collins] did to him."
League disciplinarian Stu Jackson may want to leave his Chappaqua living room and be in New Jersey tonight. There's no mistaking what Mutombo plans to do if Kenyon Martin or Richard Jefferson is flying at him for a rim-rattling dunk.
"We have to put them in the halfcourt," Mutombo said. "We can't let them run up and get dunk after dunk. If they get in that rhythm, it's going to be a long series for us. The series is going to be very physical."
Without their two major offensive weapons in Allan Houston and Thomas, the Knicks' only chance is to make tonight ugly, like the old Riley/Van Gundy days.
Even mild-mannered Houston has his hackles raised and he's not even playing. "Yeah, it does bother you, whether someone meant to do it or not," the captain said. "Bottom line is, the statement was made. You can't go out and worry what the league is going to say. You've still got to protect the basket."
Lenny Wilkens indicated he will have a shorter hook on starting center Nazr Mohammed, who he said lacks defensive toughness.
"I don't know if we have a chip on our shoulder, but we understand it's an important game and we better come out focused," said Wilkens, who declared Sunday he wants his club to deliver hard fouls on Nets attacking the rim.
Said Penny Hardaway, "Sometimes you're sleepwalking and you need to be smacked to wake up."
Thomas, suffering from lower back contusions and a bruised left ankle, attended the workout at the Knicks' Westchester campus. He received treatment and left without speaking to the media. Wilkens hopes Thomas can return Friday for Game 3 at the Garden, but it's as likely he's done if the series ends in four games Sunday.
"He's pretty sore," Wilkens said. "He came in, got treatment and we sent him home. I'm hoping he'll be fine by [Game 3]. He'll get treatment three times a day. We're hoping the back will loosen up enough."
Ironically, the series began with talk of Net injuries, but Jason Kidd and Martin looked spry, benefiting from taking time off down the stretch.
"They're healthy, we're not," said Hardaway. "That's the biggest gap I see. If both teams were healthy, I don't think we'd be in seventh spot, we'd be higher. Our team isn't healthy, theirs is."
As far as Kidd and Martin, Hardaway said, "If a guy is really injured, he's not on the floor, running fast. He'll be showing favoritism toward something. Both those guys looked really healthy in Game 1. Jason was hurt, but he had time to heal."