Knicks Starting To Hit Their Stride, Go Over .500

Published on: 1st December, 2010

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NEW YORK — It turned into one of those old-fashioned shoot-outs tonight between the big men of each team. In the end, it was Sheriff Amar’e Stoudemire who showed the young gun-slinger, Brook Lopez, how to win the game.

Stoudemire scored 35 points and the Knicks broke open a close game right after New Jersey lost point guard Devin Harris to injury, beating the Nets 111-100 on Tuesday night.

Lopez, for his part was heroic for the Nets as he scored a season-high 36 points while Jordan Farmar had 17, trying to pick up the load after Harris was lost.

Lopez scored 15 points in the first quarter, but the Knicks led 30-28. The Nets had a 58-55 lead at the break.

“I just felt like in the first half, I couldn’t play as aggressive because I picked up fouls, early”, said Stoudemire. “In the second half, I was able to play a little better defense but Brook played great. Once he gets the ball low in the post, it’s hard to stop him.”

The Knicks improved to 10-9, the latest in a season they’ve been above .500 since they were 16-15 on Jan. 4, 2005.

“Any kind of step forward, we’re taking,” coach Mike D’Antoni said with a laugh before trying to downplay the team’s record. “We are playing better and we can see we can get a lot better than this.”

“I think it’s just a matter of us just continuing to play, continuing to get better, understand that we’re a work in progress,” Stoudemire said. “We have great talent, we’re a young team and it takes a lot of studying in order to get to where we are now and we have to keep going.”

Wilson Chandler added 27 points and 11 rebounds for the Knicks, who won for the seventh time in eight games. Raymond Felton finished with 21 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.

 Harris limped to the back with a left knee injury after he was hurt on Chandler’s basket that snapped a 65-all tie midway through the third quarter. That was part of a 14-2 spurt that gave the Knicks a 10-point lead, and they were never really challenged from there.

Harris, tied for the Nets’ scoring lead with 18.2 points per game, was hurt when teammate Kris Humphries landed on the back of his leg trying to block Chandler’s fast-break layup. He remained on the court for a few minutes, then limped to the locker room with a Nets trainer.

Chandler then made two free throws, and after a follow shot by Lopez, the Knicks ran off eight in a row, with Stoudemire’s dunk off a pass from Felton extending it to 77-67 with 3:15 remaining in the quarter.

“Oh man, a big game changer. Devin is a guy that we rely on heavily,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. “In the sense it’s kind of like if they lose Stoudemire. On a lot of nights Devin’s been one of our top two players. It was tough to overcome it.”

Harris said he would have an MRI on Wednesday but didn’t think the injury was too bad.

“I’m not that worried,” he said. “Doctor says it feels pretty stable. Just want to rule out any tears.”

The Knicks outscored the Nets 33-15 in the third, taking an 88-73 lead to the final quarter, and Stoudemire kept it from getting close in the last 12 minutes by scoring 10 points for his second straight game with 35 or more.

Johnson cited Stoudemire as a reason the Knicks are currently ahead of the Nets as both try to build the top team in the area. They made the first two pitches to LeBron James in July and either would eagerly take Carmelo Anthony if he leaves Denver, but only New York has been able to land a superstar when it signed the former All-Star forward from Phoenix.

But both D’Antoni and Johnson dismissed the idea of a rivalry until it involves postseason meetings between the teams.

“You don’t really get a rivalry unless you’re in the playoffs,” D’Antoni said. “It doesn’t work during the regular season when you’re [saying], ‘Oh boy, we knocked them out of ninth place.”

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