Amare Stoudemire was 10 for 10 from the field for 21 points, and the New York Knicks unleashed a 38-4 run on Sacramento in the first half and clobbered the Kings 120-81 on Saturday night for their fourth straight victory.
The Knicks actually trailed by 10 when Stoudemire entered in the first quarter, then went on to challenge the franchise-record victory margin of 48 points and kept alive Mike Woodson's chances of coaching the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
It was an awesome display by New York in front of some special guests: 150 children, their families and teachers from Sandy Hook Elementary School. The Knicks didn't even need much from leading scorer Carmelo Anthony, who tied a season low with nine points and had his run of 20-point games snapped at 31, the longest single-season streak in franchise history.
J.R. Smith scored 25 points and Steve Novak added 15 as the Knicks made 19 3-pointers. Tyson Chandler had 11 points and 20 rebounds, becoming the first Knicks player with consecutive 20-board games since Marcus Camby on Dec. 8 and 11, 2001.
But the story was Stoudemire, a former All-Star who missed the first 30 games after knee surgery and has served as a reserve since his return. He changed the game with his energy and scoring after the Knicks sleepwalked through the start, and finished one basket shy of tying the team record for field goals without a miss, held by Johnny Newman and Bernard King.
DeMarcus Cousins had 25 points and nine rebounds for the Kings, who were horrible from all areas of the court, missing shots right at the rim on offense and often not even getting anywhere near the Knicks' 3-point shooters on defense.
The Knicks were down 13-3 and in the midst of a 1-for-13 shooting start when Stoudemire checked in. The Kings got the lead to 18-6, but then Stoudemire had a dunk and three-point play on consecutive possessions, scoring seven points in a 19-4 burst to end the quarter that gave the Knicks a 25-22 lead.
Stoudemire then made the first basket of the second quarter, kicking off a 19-0 run. Novak's third 3-pointer of the period made it 44-22 with 7:06 remaining, about 40 seconds after Stoudemire exited to a loud ovation.
Marcus Thornton ended Sacramento's drought, but Novak hit another 3 to start a run of eight straight points as the Knicks extended it to 52-25.
Stoudemire was 6 for 6 for 13 points in the half as the Knicks led 56-33. He was 9 of 9 after three, when the Knicks led by 45, and made a jumper in the fourth before leaving for good to more cheers.
He struggled with injuries last season and critics continue to insist he, Anthony and Chandler can't play well together. Yet Stoudemire remains very popular with fans, who remember that he was the big star willing to take on the rebuilding project in the summer of 2010 and has been willing to come off the bench now.
Anthony passed 17,000 points for his career but took only 12 shots, yet the Knicks still led by as much as 50.
Woodson said he already has plans to be someplace warm during All-Star weekend, but those plans may have to be altered. The coaches whose teams have the best winning percentage through Sunday's games earn the All-Star nods, and the Knicks would be a half-game ahead of Miami if the Heat lose in Toronto on Sunday afternoon.
"If it's meant to be, it's going to happen," Woodson said. "I mean, I'm not sitting here holding my breath thinking about coaching the All-Star team, I'm looking at the big picture. The big picture is trying to get this team to the finals and win an NBA championship. That's all I care about and if we do what we do tonight and Miami happens to slip up and lose tomorrow, then we go to Houston and coach the All-Star game, and that would be a great achievement for me."
One of Woodson's assistants would also coach the Rising Stars Challenge featuring rookies and second-year players on the Friday night of All-Star weekend. San Antonio's Gregg Popovich has already clinched the West nod.
NOTES: Children from the Newtown, Conn. choir sang the national anthem before the game as the Knicks welcomed the big group from Sandy Hook Elementary School. The Knicks organization on Tuesday visited Newtown, where 20 children and six adults were shot and killed at the school in December. The team hosted the "Knicks Family Fun Day" for 400 children and their families at Newtown Youth Academy. "They got hit hard and they're still trying to recover from it. So to be able to go down and touch those kids and talk to parents, and them being able to come up here and watch us play, I think it's pretty special," Woodson said. "I don't care what community you live in or where you go and visit, man, you hate to see a community going through something like that, especially when you're dealing with young kids. A lot of those kids never had a chance."