Thursday, December 9, 2010

Amar'e leads Knicks to sixth straight win

It's hard not to throw Amar'e Stoudemire's name in the hat when it comes to early-season MVP candidates. He has six straight games with 30+ points and has been clutch when it counts for the Knicks.

Last night against Toronto was no different. Stoudemire entered the fourth quarter with 16 points on the night and when all was said and done, he had 34. The Knicks never trailed in the fourth quarter and every time Toronto tried to creep close, Stoudemire answered. Eight of his nine fourth-quarter baskets answered a Raptors score that either tied the game or cut the Knicks lead to two points or less.

Andrea Bargnani had a career-high 41 points in the loss, 14 of those coming in the fourth quarter. He played just as well as Stoudemire, scoring when his team needed to trim the Knicks lead. It was a back-and-forth battle between Bargnani vs. Stoudemire and it seemed like whenever one scored, the other answered.

But it wasn't Stoudemire who put the final dagger in the Raptors' hearts. It was the Knicks' other big off-season acquisition, point guard Raymond Felton. Felton rimmed home a three in the final seconds that bounced off iron at least four times before going in to give the Knicks the lead for good.

At 14-9, New York has the Eastern Conference's fifth-best record over a quarter of the way through the season. With only seven teams in the East over .400, the playoffs seem like as much of a lock at this point as you can get this early (the Knicks could go 21-38 the rest of the way and likely grab the eighth seed with just 35 wins).

The additions of Stoudemire and Felton along with second-round pick Landry Fields, who has surprised many with his solid play and was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for November, have made the Knicks a legitimate contender much quicker than anybody could have thought.

But let's not forget the fact that the Knicks have played a ridiculously easy schedule so far this season, with just five of their 23 games against teams over .500 (they're 2-3 in those games). In the next eight days they will get Denver, Boston and Miami, all at home. Come back to me next weekend and we'll know more about whether this Knicks team is destined for a first-round exit or if they can make some noise come April.

No comments:

Post a Comment