Knicks rout Spurs to sweep season series

Amar'e Stoudemire celebrates a basket and a foul

Amar'e Stoudemire celebrates a basket and a foul with Carmelo Anthony during a game against the San Antonio Spurs. (Jan. 3, 2013) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

The Knicks played the team that Mike Woodson called the best in the NBA Thursday night and beat them for the second time this season.

It doesn't mean the Knicks will raise a championship banner this year, but their 100-83 rout of the San Antonio Spurs ranks among their most impressive of the season and helped them avoid their first three-game skid.

The Knicks opened up a relatively close game with a 15-2 run to start the fourth. They built an 82-62 lead and were up by 25 in the fourth.

"I still believe they're the best team in the league," Woodson said of the Spurs (26-9), who had won seven straight before Thursday night. "We played great. We beat a damn good ballclub tonight. We were pretty good."

Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks (22-10) with 23 points and eight rebounds. J.R. Smith added 20 points, and threw down a rousing back-to-the-basket, one-handed alley-oop dunk from Pablo Prigioni (nine assists) that had the Garden buzzing. Steve Novak scored 15.

Amar'e Stoudemire looked better than in his debut, but he's still trying to get his rhythm back and power back in his legs. He had his shot blocked three times and finished 4-for-10 with 10 points in 21 minutes off the bench in his second game back following left knee surgery.

"It was better," Stoudemire said. "I was definitely more comfortable defensively."

The Knicks are 4-0 against the Heat and the Spurs this season. Three of the games have been blowouts. In the game the Knicks won in San Antonio, they erased a 12-point deficit with 7:14 left to pull out the win.

"It's a great confidence boost for us," Jason Kidd said. "It shows we can play with the elite teams. But the big thing is we've got to understand we can't just play the elite teams at a high level and not beat the teams we're supposed to. This is a lesson learned and hopefully we can get better from this."

The Spurs, playing for the fourth time in five nights, showed little resistance after the Knicks' quick start to the fourth. Coach Gregg Popovich pulled Manu Ginobili and never went back to him, Tim Duncan or Tony Parker.

Duncan and Parker scored 11 points, and North Babylon's Danny Green had nine for the Spurs, who should have known early on it was going to be a rough night. Stephen Jackson sprained his ankle in the first quarter after tripping over a waitress serving New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

But the Knicks had something to do with the Spurs' loss. They held the highest-scoring team nearly 23 points below its season average. The Spurs, who shot just 36.4 percent, also finished with 12 points in the paint, about 33 under their average.

The Knicks' defense had been slipping and they had been starting games sluggishly. So Woodson made a change to the starting lineup, putting Marcus Camby at power forward instead of Kurt Thomas. Camby had six rebounds and a block in 16 minutes. But it was the Knicks' overall defense that reappeared after Woodson showed the team tape of what it did earlier in the season when it was first overall.

"He went back to our first 10-12 games or so and was showing us how we were playing things," said Tyson Chandler, who had 10 points and 14 rebounds. "Guys kind of saw that and it motivated us a little bit."

The Knicks led after the first quarter for the first time in seven games. Stoudemire contributed to that, scoring on a post move the first time he touched the ball.

In the second, they went up 40-32 with 5:09 remaining in the first half following a Smith three-pointer. But the Knicks missed six of their last seven shots and committed three turnovers to end the half and led only 42-40.

But they extended in the third and were ahead 67-60 heading into the fourth, where they blew the game wide open and Smith ignited his bench and the crowd with his slam.

"I was like, 'J.R. really?' " Stoudemire said. "You're just going to catch it and dunk it backwards with one hand. Is it that easy? I wish I was 27 again."

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