NEW YORK – Tyson Chandler became the first Knicks big man since franchise great Willis Reed to record three straight 20-plus rebound games Monday night at Madison Square Garden, as host New York rolled to its fifth consecutive win in a 99-85 rout of Detroit.
“It hasn’t been done in a long time … since Willis Reed,” said Chandler, who finished with exactly 20 boards in the convincing victory – the fourth time in five games that New York has won by double figures. “Whenever you are mentioned in the same breath, or accomplish records he has … it is a tall task.”
Chandler had an easy time on the floor with the young and still developing Pistons, but not such an easy time in the locker room, where the postgame interview included plenty of teasing on the part of his teammates after the 7-foot-1 All-Star and California native lost a Super Bowl bet to Carmelo Anthony. Chandler, a San Francisco 49ers fan, was forced to face the media wearing a Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl champion hat. Anthony, who was raised in Baltimore after growing up in Brooklyn, is a Ravens fan.
“Melo’s team, they won,” said Chandler, cracking a smile while several teammates told him how good he looked in his new hat.
Chandler acknowledged a conversation he recently had with head coach Mike Woodson that helped him refocus his game. “He told me, ‘you’re all-star, start playing like one,’” Chandler said of Woodson. “Sometimes, you need a little push.”
Anthony finished with a game-high 27 points and said it was a “good day for me,” adding that a picture of Chandler in the hat will be circulated.
Chandler played long enough to grab his 20th rebound, and after grabbing 20 in victories on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively, he became the first Knick to have 20 in three straight games since Reed, a Hall of Famer and the franchise’s two-time NBA Finals MVP, who accomplished the feat twice (1967, 1969).
“He’s done it three straight games, so I’m expecting it the fourth game,” said Woodson of Chandler’s performance, noting that he expects those kind of games from his big man in the pivot.
Forward Amar’e Stoudemire added 20 points, and reserve guard J.R. Smith added 16 off the bench.
Newly acquired Jose Calderon, who was born in Villanueva de la Serena, Spain, scored 15 points in his Detroit debut, while Pistons center Greg Monroe notched a double-double (13 points and 10 rebounds) in defeat. Acquired last week in the three-team trade that sent Rudy Gay from Memphis to Toronto, Calderon was cleared to play today. The Spanish guard’s debut had been on hold, because of unresolved visa issues.
“I tried to do the best I could,” Calderon said afterward. “I am thinking too much. I am trying to figure out all of my teammates. I have to do a better job of figuring out how to get my guys involved.”
The Knicks led throughout. They were ahead 28-13 after one, and that margin grew to 33-13 early in the second, highlighted by a barrage of 3-pointers. New York held a 57-36 lead at the half, and never looked back, despite Detroit crawling to within 12 points late in the second half.
“Every time we play New York, three times, they dominate the first quarter,” Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank said. “We put ourselves in such a hole, we start playing frustration basketball, and mentally we don’t stay as focused and engaged as we need to be.”
Stoudemire believes the Knicks still have room to improve. “We played well, but we could have played better,” said the former all-star forward, who has excelled off the bench since returning from injury. “We are really trying to protect our home court and we’ve done a great job at that.”
Many in the Knick locker room have drawn inspiration from their head coach, who continues to impress one goal. “We have a big goal,” Woodson said, “and the big picture is to win an NBA title. This is first and foremost. One of our goals to win our division and host first round at home. We are on pace to do that. We have to stay on course.”
The Knicks have a favorable schedule ahead, two weeks before the all-star break, starting with road stops in Washington Wednesday and Minnesota Friday.
NOTES: This is the first time since December of the 1996-97 season that the Knicks swept a five-game home stand … The Knicks are 16 games over .500 for the first time since Apr. 19, 1997 (57-25).