Stoudemire out, but Knicks beat Nets
NEWARK - Amar'e Stoudemire thought his words had fallen on deaf ears.
He wondered about his teammates' commitment, focus and self-confidence. But just when it seemed the Knicks had lost their way, Stoudemire's teammates proved that they had been listening to him all along.
Stoudemire (sprained right big toe) missed a game for the first time this season Saturday night, but the rest of the Knicks pulled their weight, defeating the Nets, 105-95.
Five players scored in double-figures for the Knicks (27-26). Wilson Chandler, who started in place of Stoudemire, had 21 points, eight rebounds and five blocks. Toney Douglas added 19 points, Landry Fields 14, Raymond Felton 13 and Bill Walker 11. Felton also had 11 assists.
"The game was so emotional and players were playing hard and playing great," Stoudemire said. "It was a big game for us and we understood the magnitude of the game, so my emotions came out a lot from a cheerleading standpoint."
Stoudemire's injury was announced just a half-hour before tipoff by the Knicks' public relations staff and an hour after Mike D'Antoni told the media there were no changes to his lineup. He said he didn't know until right before the game that Stoudemire would be unable to play.
Felton took it upon himself to remind players of the importance of the game. "The biggest thing was make sure everybody was ready to play, everybody was focused coming off a tough loss [Friday] night at home, back-to-back game without Amar'e - it was going to be a tough game," he said. " . . . I'm very proud of everybody."
Most impressive was Chandler's all-around effort, which included three assists and one steal. "I knew we'd probably have to play a lot of minutes tonight, so just play aggressive," he said of his mind-set.
Devin Harris had 22 points, Brook Lopez 19 and Sasha Vujacic 15 for the Nets. Derrick Favors had 14 rebounds and Kris Humphries 11.
After the Knicks' loss to the Lakers Friday night, Stoudemire sat hunched over in front of his locker, talking about the importance of the game against the Nets. It was a "must-win" game, he said. And although he couldn't contribute, his teammates made sure they did win.
A three-pointer by Harris gave the Nets their first lead of the second half at 84-83, and Anthony Morrow's three-pointer put them ahead 89-87 with 4:33 to play, but the Knicks found their stroke from behind the arc at just the right time.
Chandler knocked down a three-pointer to put the Knicks ahead and Fields hit a three of his own from in front of the Nets' bench for a 93-89 lead. After a three-point play by Timofey Mozgov made it 96-90, Fields hit a three-pointer from the opposite corner to give the Knicks a 99-91 lead with 48.6 seconds to go. Four free throws by Felton and two by Danilo Gallinari clinched it.
Before the game, D'Antoni voiced his concern about his team's inability to maintain focus for 48 minutes and play sound basketball. "We just haven't shot the ball with confidence or played with confidence," he said. "We're not making great decisions on the floor, we're not passing the ball well - that's the main thing - and then defensively, we're up and down.
"There are times where we look good for stretches and there are times that we just make an incredible decision that's just not good. I don't know if that's because we're young or we're distracted or what it is, but we've got to get over that and get back to playing solid basketball."
His players had no trouble doing that against the Nets (17-38).
Surprisingly, the Knicks didn't seem to miss Stoudemire all that much early on. Twice they went ahead by 11 points in the second quarter, thanks to a bevy of long-range jumpers and well-timed putbacks.