WASHINGTON - Amar'e Stoudemire hadn't heard of Willie Naulls before, but now he shares a space with him in Knicks history. Stoudemire scored 36 points for his seventh straight 30-point performance as the Knicks earned a 101-95 win over the Wizards Friday night, their seventh straight win and 12th in their last 13 games.
Stoudemire, who also had 10 rebounds and two blocked shots, tied Naulls' franchise record for consecutive games of at least 30 points. "It's great from the point of, it's my first year here and the success that we're having,'' Stoudemire said. "And a lot of people didn't think we'd have this success.''
Stoudemire is averaging 34.4 points per game in the seven games, but in Friday's win, he made perhaps his biggest impact on the defensive end when he blocked John Wall's driving layup with 45.9 seconds left to preserve a 95-92 lead.
And like Naulls - who reached 30 for the seventh straight game in Hershey, Pa., on March 2, 1962, and watched Wilt Chamberlain score 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in the same game - Stoudemire was part of some dubious history. He had a franchise-record and career-high 11 turnovers. "I had no idea the turnovers were that high on my part,'' he said. "But if you turn the ball over that many times and still get the win, you must be a good team.''
The turnover problem notwithstanding - Stoudemire had what Mike D'Antoni likes to call the old "cripple-double'' - the Knicks survived yet another ugly game against an opponent with a losing record.
"I don't think we played great tonight,'' D'Antoni said. "But that's even more encouraging that when we didn't play well, we won on the road.''
The schedule gets much tougher now, as the Knicks (15-9) host the Nuggets, Celtics and Heat next week. The Knicks are 5-5 at the Garden but are 10-4 on the road, with eight straight wins away from home.
"I think now we're going to be forced to really see what we're made of,'' Stoudemire said.
Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari each had 16 points, Raymond Felton had 13 and Landry Fields added 11 as all five Knicks starters scored in double figures. Gilbert Arenas had 20 points and Nick Young added 17 for the Wizards (6-16). Wall played despite a foot injury and had eight points and six assists in 37 minutes.
Stoudemire scored 11 points in the third quarter, including nine straight late in the quarter that ended with a reverse layup to tie the score at 73. Felton's three-pointer with 32.5 seconds left sent the Knicks into the fourth quarter with a 76-73 lead.
Stoudemire reached 28 early in the fourth on a pair of free throws that gave the Knicks a 79-75 lead. The ball came his way on the next two possessions, but instead of gunning against double-teams, he moved the ball to find Gallinari for a foul (and two free throws) and Fields on a kick-out for three to give the Knicks an 84-77 lead with 9:29 to go. "He's drawing so much attention, that's why I got that open shot,'' Fields said. "He made a great pass.''
Stoudemire recorded his 30th point on a jump hook with 4:59 left to give the Knicks a 90-81 lead. As he ran down the court, a contingent of Knicks fans in the crowd serenaded him with an "MVP!'' chant. "It feels good to go on a run like this,'' he said, "but it feels greater to win.''