The Knicks put on quite a show at the Garden on Saturday night, spotting the Kings an 18-6 lead in the first quarter before rallying to outscore them 114-65 the rest of the way.
It was a jaw-dropping performance, punctuated by Kurt Thomas nailing a three to the delight of the Knicks bench during garbage time in the fourth quarter. Amusing as that might have been, the lasting memory from the game is going to be Amar'e Stoudemire continuing to reassert his place in the NBA firmament.
Stoudemire made all 10 shots he tried on Saturday, leaving him with a shooting percentage of 77.7 percent during the team's current four-game winning streak. There's been a return of the explosive Stoudemire around the hoop to go with post moves that suggest his offseason work with Hakeem Olajuwon was well worth the effort.
His defense, always a trouble spot, has been perfectly adequate in that stretch and his work on the offensive boards has been extremely helpful for a team that's still short up front outside of Tyson Chandler. It looks a lot like the glory days of 2010, in other words, and it's been a thrill to watch.
It's also led to questions about whether or not it is time to return him to the starting lineup. Stoudemire's shown that he, Chandler and Carmelo Anthony can share the court without the Knicks offense grinding to a halt, giving credence to the idea that STAT should be part of the first five.
While that's not a development that would lead to any great resistance, you have to wonder if it is worth breaking something that doesn't need fixing. The Knicks have great balance between the starters and the bench right now as Stoudemire and J.R. Smith provide serious scoring punch for a second unit that outscored the Kings 82-81 by themselves on Saturday night.
By keeping Stoudemire and Smith as bench players with Anthony in the starting lineup, the Knicks basically assure themselves of having at least two potent scorers on the court at every minute of every game. Mike Woodson can exploit mismatches and tailor his lineup to the particular needs of the particular moment.
It's a great strength and it is a role that Stoudemire has accepted with grace despite being hailed as the savior of the franchise when he first arrived in New York. It's made it much easier for a fan base that was turning on STAT after his run-in with the fire extinguisher and assorted physical ailments to embrace him all over again, leading to a lovefest that rivals anything he experienced in that first glorious half-season as a Knick.
Small sample sizes can be dangerous things and it would be silly to assume there won't be bumps in the road before the season ends. Stoudemire's handled the bumps like a champ, though, and now he and the Knicks are reaping the rewards for that perseverance.