Stoudemire Returns But Knicks Lose To Portland

Published on: 2nd January, 2013

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Stoudemire returns, Knicks lose to Portland
Stoudemire Returns But Knicks Lose To Portland  | read this item

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New York – Not even the return to the active roster of Amar’e Stoudemire could get the Knicks what they needed tonight, a win over the visiting Portland Trailblazers. Instead, the youthful, athletic Blazers raced to a 19-point lead in the second quarter and rode it the rest of the way to a 105-100 win.

Stoudemire played his first 17 minutes of the season in this, the Knicks 31st game, and looked like he hadn’t played in much longer than that. His last time on the floor was actually nine months ago, in April of 2012.

It showed.

His reaction time on defense, never a strength, was particularly slow on pick and roll switches and on crashing the boards where the young, Portland legs of J.J. Hixson and LaMarcus Aldridge jumped over and around him for loose balls off the backboard.

Stoudemire came off the bench at the 3:31 mark of the first quarter to a rousing ovation from the Knicks partisans, most of whom were expecting some semblance of the “Stat” they had grown used to. However, the explosive athleticism, the quick jumping ability, the powerful jams, and the smooth 15-foot jump shot from the left elbow were all missing, mostly.

“I almost shed a tear when I walked on the court with the standing ovation,” Stoudemire said. “It was a phenomenal feeling. It was great to see the fans were patient with me.”

But, all emotions aside, his game was nowhere near ready for prime-time action after just two days of practice with the team and his having not played in an NBA game for nine months.

He recognizes the adjustment he will have to make to catch up with the speed of the game. This isn’t practice anymore, and he knows it.

“I felt good but the game seemed to be going 100 miles per hour,” he said. “I was a little rusty. My second half was better than my first half and hopefully, my second game will be better than my first.”

As for his knee, which has been problematical since he first injured it during his fourth season in the league, requiring microfracture surgery, Stoudemire said it came through this test in good shape.

“I felt phenomenal,” he said with a big smile. “It was a great sign.”

There were some moments, during the second half when Stoudemire, who missed on all five of his shots in the first half, looked to be getting his body and mind back into NBA form. He hit all three of his shots in his 7:10 stint during the half, two on monstrous jams. For a second there, Knicks fans could dream of the impact a healthy Stoudemire could have on this team. But that’s probably jumping the gun with so many team decisions affected by Stoudemire’s presence.

One of the more pressing questions has been how Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire would co-exist on the floor. Tonight, Woodson had them playing at the same time for 11:21, during which Portland outscored the Knicks by eight points, giving the Stoudemire-Anthony combination a -8 plus/minus ratio. That falls in line with how these two have co-existed on the floor previously, as tonight’s game was their 73rd together, including playoffs. Their record stands at 31-42. It’s not a relationship on the basketball court that has come naturally, to say the least.

“We’re having a tough time right now,” Tyson Chandler said. “We are getting away from our principles and second-guessing ourselves. We have to stick with what has been working.”

Anthony liked what he saw in Stoudemire, though.

“It was great to see him out there,” said Anthony. “I think the adrenaline was flowing early and once he settled down, he got some easy shots, he started feeling like himself again.”

Flying, somewhat under the radar tonight was the reappearance in the lineup of Anthony, the second-leading scorer in the NBA and the closest thing the Knicks have to an unstoppable offensive force. All Anthony did tonight, after missing the past two games with a hyper-extended knee, was to put up 45-points, tying his Knicks career-high.

“I felt pretty good for the most part,” he said. “I didn’t expect to do some of the things I was able to do out there. When you are playing, your adrenaline is flowing and you aren’t thinking about anything. I feel a little sore. I am trying to get the power and strength back to my left leg.”

The loss for the Knicks, their third in the past four games, was similar to other losses in that they allowed the opposing team to get out to big leads in the first halves. Woodson knows everything begins with defense on this team.

“Forget the offense,” he said. “We scored enough points but defensively, we are not where we were earlier in the season. You can’t keep spotting 20-plus point leads and think you will come back.”

Typical of Woodson, he accepts full responsibility for the the Knicks defensive ineptness.

“It was the start of the game and that’s on me,” he said. “I have to figure out why we are coming out flat. It sets the tone on how we play. The last few outings have been a disaster in terms of how we started the game.”

Woodson will also need to figure out what he’s going to do about the unproductive games he’s recently been getting from his point guards, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni. With Raymond Felton out for the next four to six weeks with a fractured hand, Kidd, the 39-year old Hall of Famer to-be, is being forced to play 30-35 minutes per night, way too much for his aging legs.

Kidd was shut out from scoring tonight, going 0-5 with only three assists in his 33-minutes. Prigioni only scored two points in his 22-minutes. Felton, the starter, averages 17 points per game. The drop off from starter to backups is steep.

The Knicks have hit a bump in the road in the past week or so but the answers may not be soon forthcoming as the San Antonio Spurs, among the league’s best teams, visits Madison Square Garden this Thursday. Tony Parker, their speedy point guard, has a way of making slower, older point guards look even older than they are.

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