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Amar'e Stoudemire looks like his old self in win over 76ers

Amar'e Stoudemire dunks the ball in the first

Amar'e Stoudemire dunks the ball in the first half of a game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Madison Square Garden on Monday, March 10, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

One play. Or two. Maybe three at the most.

That's how many times per game Knicks fans get to catch a glimpse of the old Amar'e Stoudemire.

It happened Monday night in the fourth quarter. Stoudemire caught a lob from J.R. Smith and threw down a one-handed slam over a pair of defenders. The dunk extended the Knicks' lead, and when Stoudemire landed, he grinned.

He gets it. He knows he isn't the dynamic athlete he used to be -- not with those balky knees. But he's still helping the Knicks win games, such as the 123-110 victory over the 76ers on Monday night at Madison Square Garden. Stoudemire had 23 points and six rebounds to help the Knicks earn their fourth straight victory.

"I've been working extremely hard to get back to my normal self again," Stoudemire said.

The Knicks still might not make the playoffs. They remain in a virtual tie for ninth in the Eastern Conference, 31/2 games out of a playoff spot. But if they miss the postseason, it won't be because of Stoudemire, at least not because of his effort.

The oft-injured 31-year-old has played his best basketball of the season in March, and Monday night he did it almost exclusively while playing center with Tyson Chandler out because of a personal matter.

Kenyon Martin, another important frontcourt cog, remains out with a bad ankle.

Stoudemire is averaging 17.0 points and 6.8 rebounds during the winning streak. And this month, he's putting up averages of 17.3 points and 6.5 rebounds.

Stoudemire isn't even supposed to be playing two games in a row because of his knees, and now he has played more than 20 minutes in five of the last six contests. He's also scored in double figures in each of the last six games.

Mike Woodson said he actually ran the Knicks' offense through Stoudemire on Monday night and that he's playing "unbelievably well."

Said Raymond Felton, "Amar'e is playing some of his [best] basketball that I've seen in a while."

Stoudemire can show flashes of brilliance, such as that jam with 8:21 left that gave the Knicks a 107-89 lead. But he's also prone to mistakes. Just three minutes earlier, he caught a pass in the lane, dropped it and had it go off his leg before he recovered and banked it in.

That basket gave Stoudemire his 20th point, matching his career average.

He's getting the job done -- and playing way more minutes than he probably should be for a team that's still fighting for a playoff berth.

"We still have some ways to go," Stoudemire said, "but we're slowly chipping away."

New York Sports