WHAT IT MEANS: The buzz is most definitely back at MSG. The new, tougher stretch of the Knicks' schedule began with a shootout victory before a fired-up crowd as Amare Stoudemire scored 30 points for the eighth consecutive game, setting a club record. The Knicks (16-9) have now won eight consecutive games for the first time since 1994-95, along with 13 of 14 since starting the season 3-8. Carmelo Anthony received a standing ovation during player introductions, but the crowd was loudly behind the home team for the rest of the afternoon. It was an especially raucous crowd for a noon start.
TURNING POINT: With the Knicks ahead 125-122 after a 3-pointer by Wilson Chandler (off Raymond Felton's 17th assist) with 30.6 seconds left, Anthony was called for an offensive foul for plowing into Danilo Gallinari as he drove the lane. Anthony was upset because Gallinari did not have his feet set, and the Nuggets were then forced to foul. Felton hit four consecutive free throws to lock up the win.
DIFFERENCE-MAKER: Take your pick: Felton with 19 points and 17 assists, Landry Fields with 18 points and nine rebounds -- four in the pivotal fourth quarter -- or Chandler (27 points in 10-for-17 shooting with five 3-pointers.)
INVISIBLE EIGHTH MAN: Timofey Mozgov and Anthony Randolph did not play a single minute, Shawne Williams had his third consecutive blah performance with no points, one turnover and one foul in 3 minutes, and Bill Walker played three minutes with no stats of any kind. Mike D'Antoni may end up going with just seven players in the next game, though it would seem he'll need Mozgov or Randolph to counter Boston's size.
WHAT'S NEXT: "Dream Week," as some news outlets are calling it, continues Wednesday night when the Knicks play the Boston Celtics, who will bring a 10-game winning streak into the Garden and will be coming off three full days of rest. Boston, the NBA's top-ranked defensive team, held Charlotte to just 62 points in a 31-point drubbing Saturday night. The Celtics also lead the NBA in field goal percentage and assists, and they began Sunday just a half-game behind San Antonio for the NBA's best record.