Mission accomplished. The Knicks responded with a 111-101 victory, their most resounding win of the season and one that made it seem like there may be a little more juice than anyone expected in this local hoops rivalry. Or perhaps it was the prospect of finishing November with a winning record for the first time since 2005. Either way, something got the Knicks to kick things into a higher gear.
After a sloppy first half that made it seem like the referees were showing off for David Stern, who was in attendance, an angry looking Knicks team took over in the third quarter. Amar'e Stoudemire was right in the center of the storm. He scored 13 points in the third and had 22 of his 35 in the second half behind a relentless offensive attack that the Nets were powerless to stop. He didn't do it all by himself as Raymond Felton finally seems to have found his groove with the big fella without hurting his own ability to shot put the ball into the hoop on his drives.
More than stats, though, the second half was about his attitude. Stoudemire took to his role as the man in the middle of the Knicks revival from the moment he got to town, but that side of him manifested itself most clearly on Tuesday night. He battled with elbows, grunts and guile on both ends to lift himself past the impressive Brook Lopez and the Knicks past the Nets.
Watching him turn in that kind of performance against a backdrop full of discussion of how the Knicks and Nets both want Carmelo Anthony made you wonder why the Knicks are part of that chase. This team doesn't appear to need a volume scorer to take the ball away from Stoudemire.
If he's capable of doing this with Felton, what would he do matched with Chris Paul or Deron Williams? What could he do with the addition of a ruthless outside shooter or a defensive stopper who would allow him to expend less energy on that side of the floor? The answers make your mouth water much more than wondering how the Knicks would look with alternating isolation possessions by Melo and Amar'e every time down the court.
Making this Stoudemire's team has worked out pretty well thus far, so let's keep building on that instead of changing paths again so quickly.