New York Knicks' Amare Stoudemire (1) drives the ball to...

New York Knicks' Amare Stoudemire (1) drives the ball to the basket to score during the first half against the Philadelphia 76ers. (Feb. 6, 2011) Credit: AP

The sight of Amar'e Stoudemire prone on the Garden court draws gasps from the crowd, but in the fourth quarter of the Knicks' 117-103 win over the 76ers yesterday, Stoudemire didn't stay down for long. He rose into a plank position and pumped three push-ups.

"I was in the weight room the past few days," Stoudemire said. "I felt like I was getting stronger out there, so I figured I'd knock out a couple of push-ups."

Getting stronger or just regaining his strength? The Knicks' All-Star power forward scored 41 points, added seven rebounds, four blocks and four assists, and played with an intimidating, relentless swagger that hasn't been seen in a few weeks.

"I felt good," he said. "I felt energetic."

With the 76ers (23-27) nipping at their heels for the sixth playoff spot in the East, it was a performance the Knicks (26-24) desperately needed. They regained a three-game lead after losing to the 76ers, 100-98, Friday night in Philadelphia in the first game of the home-and-home series.

"This is a huge game; all of these are huge games," Mike D'Antoni said. "I think our focus has to be on trying to get 40 wins. That should get us in the playoffs . . . Our goal all year is to get to the playoffs."

After Friday's loss, Raymond Felton called yesterday's game "a must-win." Stoudemire criticized the team for "slacking right now" and called for the Knicks to "look ourselves in the mirror."

Apparently, he checked his own reflection. So with white, padded compression sleeves on his aching knees - which sort of gave him a Patrick Ewing look - Stoudemire got back to the inside-outside game that earned him the "M-V-P" chants in the first place.

He shot 17-for-21 from the field and 7-for-7 from the free-throw line. His scoring was well-balanced through each quarter, with 12 in the fourth, including six straight to give the Knicks a 98-86 lead with 7:21 left. Stoudemire scored nine straight late in the first half to give the Knicks the lead for good at 55-49.

Stoudemire also was part of something the Knicks haven't done well lately: ball movement. He kicked it out to rookie Landry Fields for one of his five three-pointers, which made it 104-94 with 4:55 left after the 76ers had cut the deficit to seven.

Fields scored a career-high 25 points, shooting 10-for-13 from the field, and had 10 rebounds. He was 5-for-7 from downtown, including three in the fourth quarter.

"Probably most people will be talking about Amar'e's 41, and they should, but Landry's 25 and 10, that's incredible," D'Antoni said. "And they were all big shots. He either stopped the bleeding or put us ahead."

Elton Brand had 28 points to lead the 76ers. Felton had 13 points and 13 assists for the Knicks, who started rookie Timofey Mozgov at center for the first time since early November. Mozgov had only three points in 29:42 but grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots. When he fouled out, he received a standing ovation from the crowd.

In the third quarter, Stoudemire was called for his 14th technical foul of the season for an excessive reaction to a foul call after poking the ball away to start an apparent fast break. Stoudemire said referee Bob Delaney admitted afterward that he might have been the one who overreacted.

"He really didn't think it was a bad play on my part," Stoudemire said. "He felt . . . that I was going to get that one taken away . I'll call and see how it goes."

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