WHAT IT MEANS: When he opens the newspaper on Monday morning or checks the NBA standings online, Carmelo Anthony will have the satisfaction of knowing that he is not trying to leverage his way into being traded to a .500 team. The Knicks avoided dropping to the break-even mark by shooting nearly 60 percent and getting a dominant performance from Amare Stoudemire to avenge their fourth-quarter meltdown loss against these same Sixers two nights earlier.
The only sore point was Stoudemire picking up another technical foul, angering referee Bob Delaney by skipping after a personal foul was called against him, raising his season total to 14. Two more and he begins earning automatic one-game suspensions for every other technical foul he picks up over the remainder of the regular season.
TURNING POINT: It came in the first few moments of the fourth quarter after the Sixers, who appeared to be staging an epic rally mirroring the one they used to beat the Knicks with Friday night, closed within single digits. Wilson Chandler and Toney Douglas made 3-pointers for a double-digit lead, an the Knicks fed their big man the rest of the way as Stoudemire refused to miss from the field. Chants of "M-V-P" showered Stoudemire with three minutes left after he drew Elton Brand's fourth foul. The Knicks made 11 3-pointers (Landry Fields was 5-for-7) and blocked seven shots, four by Stoudemire and three by Tmofey Mozgov.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: It was the Knicks' lone All-Star, Stoudemire, and he was at his best offensively in making 17 of 21 attempts from the field for 41 points. Stoudemire had 29 at the end of three quarters, then knocked down his all five of his shots in the final period to keep the Sixers a safe distance away. Landry Fields added a career-high 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting and led the Knicks with 10 rebounds.
MORE MOZGOV: Coach Mike D'Antoni revealed before the game that he envisions a day when Mozgov (three points, eight rebounds, three blocks) will be the Knicks' full-time starter at center. "We would like to get to the point where we have a big lineup out there with Mozgov. We probably started a little too early, and I could have gone to it now, but again I think we're making a lot out of nothing in the sense that lineups will change until we become a contender. And you have guys who are solidified in that position who have played together 4-5 years, then you have to stick with what you've got.
"Right now we’re in the process of building a team for the future and trying to make the playoffs at the same time, and guys will mature at different rates and they'll have up and downs," D'Antoni said. "It’s just a little scary when you start two rookies and trying to get into the playoffs against teams that have been together for a while, and you just have to be careful with it."
WHAT'S NEXT: Aside from whatever Carmelo Anthony-related developments pop up on the radar, the Knicks will have several weeks to enjoy the comforts of home. They playing their next two at MSG against the Clippers on Wednesday and against the Lakers on Friday before crossing the Hudson for a road game Saturday against the Nets. After that, its home games against Atlanta and Milwaukee sandwiched around the All-Star break before they all finally get on a plane together again on the afternoon of Feb. 24 (which also happens to be the trading deadline) for a flight to Cleveland.