Amar'e Stoudemire started a Knicks run that ultimately put the game away Saturday night. But he wasn't around for the end of it after feeling tightness in his lower back.
Whenever Stoudemire has a back issue, it's a major concern, because it plagued him throughout last season and hampered him in the playoffs. He left in the third quarter Saturday night and remained in the locker room to get treatment.
But Stoudemire was in good spirits after the 101-79 win over Detroit and confident he won't miss any time. "It just got a little tight," he said. "We took precautionary measures. There's nothing to be worried about."
The Knicks hope Stoudemire escaped anything major. It would be a huge blow if his condition becomes a lingering issue.
Stoudemire has just begun to display some of the bounce and explosiveness that he's known for, and he was playing well when he got hurt against the Pistons. He finished with 17 points, shot 7-for-10 and pulled down eight rebounds in 24:41 to help the Knicks improve to 6-1 under Mike Woodson.
The win, coupled with the Bucks' loss to the Pacers, gave the Knicks (24-25) a 1½-game lead on Milwaukee for the last playoff spot in the East. The Bucks, who have beaten the Knicks twice this season, visit the Garden Monday night, and Stoudemire expects to play. "I don't think there's a reason why I won't play Monday," he said.
Jeremy Lin also left the game in the third quarter with a sore left knee. He said it's from "over-use" and that he could have played in the fourth quarter. But the Knicks built a 24-point lead in the fourth, so there was no need to reinsert him.
After the Knicks lacked effort in losing in Toronto on Friday, Woodson was relieved that they bounced back but said his "big concern" is Stoudemire. "It stiffened on him coming down the stretch," Woodson said. "A lot of that is we've had seven games in 11 days and it's been a grind. It's not going to get any better. It's kind of nice to have blowout games where you can rest.
"I am concerned about Amar'e. We'll evaluate it, see how he feels tomorrow. Hopefully we can continue to have some blowouts so guys can rest."
Stoudemire spent most of the offseason and lockout strengthening his back. He played very little basketball and added about 15 pounds of muscle to help protect the back, but his mobility suffered. Recently, he's shed pounds and his lift has returned.
He said this wasn't the first time he felt tightness in his back. Stoudemire said it's muscular and that treatment and massage should loosen him up. The Knicks are off today, so he will get the rest and care he needs to prepare for Monday night.
The Knicks let Detroit (16-32) hang around for the first 2½ quarters because they were careless with the ball.They finished with 22 turnovers. After the Pistons cut a 14-point deficit in half in the third quarter, Stoudemire started a 20-8 run that put the game out of reach at 82-63.
"The second quarter we did a great job of getting the lead, and the second half we just swallowed them up," he said. "Great effort. Great total team effort. Big win, going to the next game against Milwaukee. It's going to be a tough game for us."
And his team will like its chances much more if he can play.