November 1, 2003 -- Last year, Tim Duncan killed the Knicks. Obliterated the Knicks. Averaged 29 points and 13 rebounds in two games against their pint-sized front line.
But the Knicks still won both games.
And that's why the Knicks are in the unlikely position of feeling confident going into a road game against the NBA champs tonight in San Antonio.
They weathered Duncan's heroics last year and still won with their tiny team. Now?
"I feel better because we have size," Knick coach Don Chaney said. "This is the first time, this year, that at least we look like a pro team, size-wise. Last year we were really very small."
Small? No, the Expos' budget is small. Size-wise, the Knicks' frontline last year might not have intimidated Rutgers. At 6-foot-9, Kurt Thomas was their center and biggest player.
But this year, things have changed. Keith Van Horn (6-10) and Dikembe Mutombo (7-2) have replaced Latrell Sprewell (6-5) and Othella Harrington (6-9) in the starting lineup. And suddenly, the Knicks have some skyscrapers.
"We're big now," Thomas said. "It's a lot of fun, knowing that 90 percent of the time we're going to win the rebounding edge."
They got the edge on Wednesday against the Magic, outrebounding Orlando, 48-44, despite losing 85-83 in overtime.
Now that size and rebounding has to figure out a way to stop Duncan, the league's two-time MVP.
Tonight, Chaney will start off with Thomas on Duncan, as the coach likes Thomas' bullish ability to keep the 7-0 Duncan away from the hoop.
Why not use Mutombo to guard Duncan? Chaney actually sampled it a bit in preseason, but he found that the Spurs' big man was too quick for Mutombo, constantly blowing past the 37-year-old vet.
Instead, Mutombo will guard 7-0 Rasho Nesterovic, David Robinson's replacement. And when Thomas isn't on Duncan, Chaney will use 6-11 Michael Doleac, who's had some prior success.
As they did against the Magic, the Knicks also may employ some zone defense to guard Duncan, slow his pace and force him to beat them with his outside shot. Regardless, as Thomas said, "It's not going to be one person trying to stop him."
Meanwhile, although it's only the second game of the year, Chaney wants his team to treat this game with a sense of urgency. Last year's team started 1-8 and had to fight all year to recover. This year, the Knicks are only 0-1, but Chaney wants to make sure another early slide doesn't ensue.
"We don't want to get buried and try to climb out of a hole early," he said. "So we have to win."
Relying on a win against the NBA champs usually isn't a sound bet. But the Knicks did it twice last year, and as Mutombo said, "I don't see why we can't do that this year."
"We did it last year two times with no seven-footers," Allan Houston said. "So now it's a matter of bringing that same mindset."
And getting that first win.
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another great article by the NYpost that, at least on the paper gives us something to hope for...