All the big names — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — were present and accounted for at Madison Square Garden, which, as it turned out, was a blessing for the Knicks.

Even though the Spurs technically showed up in New York, they really didn't. But at least now they won't be fined by the NBA.

The Knicks defended like they hadn't in weeks and cruised to a 100-83 victory Thursday night, a win that in many ways was aided and abetted by two power brokers — the NBA schedule maker and Mayor Bloomberg himself.

The Knicks were fortunate to get the Spurs on their fourth game in five nights, which is a killer for an aging team such as San Antonio. Gregg Popovich's club was further compromised when Stephen Jackson sprained his right ankle in the first half after tripping over a courtside waitress who was in the middle of taking Mayor Bloomberg's food order. Apparently, it's just not tax breaks that City Hall gives Madison Square Garden.

"We played great tonight," Mike Woodson said after his team improved to 22-10 and got a Garden-detonating dunk from J.R. Smith. "We beat a damn good ballclub."

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