In Sunday’s matinee at Madison Square Garden, the player who created the game’s most intriguing, head-scratching moment was also the player who could not stay on the court for more than two minutes. Some Knicks fans groaned and others applauded as they watched Rasheed Wallace leave the court before he could even break a sweat.
Another ho-hum victory for the Knicks, this time a 106-99 victory over the Phoenix suns, was memorable because the Knicks (12-4) moved to 7-0 at home, but also because Wallace was ejected after playing only 1 minute 25 seconds.
The reason the referee John Goble ejected Wallace was unusual. Late in the first quarter, Wallace fouled Phoenix’s Luis Scola, who was driving to the basket. After the initial foul, Scola tried to score on a continuation play. Wallace then slapped the ball out of Scola’s hands. When Goble called a technical foul, Wallace, who looked dumbfounded, asked: “Who? What?”
“I honestly thought it was a continuation play,” the Knicks’ Tyson Chandler said. “I think the defender is allowed, if the offensive player continues to go, to stop him. I think that’s what Rasheed was trying to do.”
Moments later, Phoenix’s Goran Dragic missed the Suns’ technical free throw, which led Wallace to shout, several times, “Ball don’t lie!” his trademark phrase to suggest the referees made a bad call. Goble then gave Wallace another technical foul, which prompted his ejection. Wallace cursed at all three referees before going to the locker room.
The three numbers Wallace recorded in the game — one personal foul, two technical fouls and an ejection — illustrated the reputation that has landed him in trouble during his 15 years in the league. Wallace now has 317 technical fouls in his career during the regular season.
When Carmelo Anthony, who led the Knicks with 34 points, was asked if Wallace’s track record played a role in the ejection, Anthony smiled and said, “I think so,” before adding: “He’s the only guy in the league that gets technical fouls for saying, ‘Ball don’t lie.’ That just goes to show you right there.”
Anthony also said Wallace was waiting in the team’s locker room after the game to apologize to Coach Mike Woodson and his teammates.
“That was the right thing to do,” Anthony said. Wallace left before reporters were allowed into the locker room.
Chris Copeland, a seldom-used 28-year-old rookie, replaced Wallace in the first half. In eight minutes, he scored 8 points, including a dunk over Phoenix’s Michael Beasley off a missed 3-pointer from Anthony. Copeland also recorded three rebounds and two assists.
“It gives other guys an opportunity to play,” Woodson said in his only comment about Wallace’s ejection. “That’s the beauty of our team, which I think is deep. Copeland came in and really helped us.”
After the game, the Knicks discussed a topic that did not involve Wallace’s ejection: their ability to stay perfect at the Garden this season.
Before Sunday’s game, each of the Knicks’ home wins had been by 10 points or more. The Knicks have played four times on a Sunday this season — all at the Garden — and have won each game with ease.
The Suns (7-11) looked as if they were not prepared to play the Knicks, who were up by 19-6 late in the first quarter. The game got out of hand so early that Woodson, mindful that he has the oldest team in the league, began to think about how much rest he could give his starters.
The Knicks alone against the Suns’ poor defense
After halftime, the Knicks played with Woodson making few calls on the court. The Knicks seemed to be playing carefree. But most of their fans stayed, probably to see what the Knicks could do against the Suns’ poor defense. They witnessed an occasional dunk from Chandler, an impressive pass between defenders by Raymond Felton and an open 3-pointer from Steve Novak.
Between those plays, though, were baskets from the Suns. Yes, Phoenix’s Shannon Brown did cut the Knicks’ lead to 4 points in the fourth quarter, but Woodson put his starters back on the court to increase their cushion again.
Even though the final score suggested a closer game, the Knicks know they have yet to be tested this season at the Garden. This time, they won mainly without Wallace.
Raymond Felton injured his left thumb in the second half. A few hours after the game, the team announced that a magnetic resonance imaging scan revealed Felton had a bone bruise. He is listed as day to day. The Knicks’ next game is Wednesday at Charlotte.
“It’s swollen now, in a lot of pain, but we’ll see what happens,” Felton said. “It got jammed between another player and I. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t miss any time. I was able to finish the game with it not wrapped, so I should be just fine.” … Marcus Camby, 38, missed the game with a sore left foot. Camby is playing less than eight minutes a game this season. …Jason Kidd missed his fourth consecutive game with back spasms.