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Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Rapid Reaction: Knicks 113, Raptors 110

By Chris Sheridan

WHAT IT MEANS: This makes it 11 wins in 12 games for the Knicks, a string of success that puts them five games over .500 (14-9) this late in the season for the first time since 2000-01. The Knicks withstood a 41-point effort from Andrea Bargnani because of a monstrous fourth quarter by Amare Stoudemire, who shot 15-for-27 (9-for-13 in the final frame) and finished with 34 points -- and a clutch, lucky-bounce 3-pointer by Raymond Felton with 2.7 seconds remaining. Of the Knicks' 14 victories, three have come against the Raptors. The Knicks are 9-4 against teams with losing records, and 3-5 versus teams with winning records. 

TURNING POINT: After Bargnani made a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left, the Knicks did not call one of their three remaining timeouts, instead letting Felton dribble the ball upcourt and burn some clock. He started his move with five seconds left on the shot clock, went to his left and fired up a 3-pointer that skidded and bounced on the rim four or five times before dropping through, breaking a 110-110 tie. Bargnani, defended by the much smaller Felton, got off a long 3-point attempt before the buzzer, but it was short.

DIFFERENCE MAKER: That would once again be Stoudemire, who scored 18 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter to become the first Knicks player since Willie Naulls in 1962 to score 30 or more points in six consecutive games. Late in the fourth quarter, after Stoudemire hit an 18-foot turnaround to give the Knicks a 110-107 lead, the fans actually chanted "M-V-P." Felton had another double-double, his fifth in the past six games, with 28 points and 11 assists -- seven of which came in the final quarter. Danilo Gallinari scored 20.

AZUBUIKE UPDATE: Coach Mike D'Antoni is much less optimistic than Kelenna Azubuike about the timetable for the shooting guard to make his season debut. Azubuike, recovering from patella tendon surgery, has been scrimmaging for three weeks while hinting he feels he'll be ready to go soon. But D'Antoni said bluntly: "He's not ready to play. He just doesn't have the pop. He can scrimmage, he's just not strong enough to be able to go sideways or to have an NBA physical talent level. It's just not there yet. He's just got to keep working on his strength, and hopefully he gets here sooner than later, but there's no timetable."

WHAT'S NEXT: The last morsel in a steady diet of cupcakes, the 6-14 Washington Wizards play host to the Knicks on Friday night before the schedule takes a sudden turn toward tougher terrain, with a game against Denver on Sunday afternoon that begins a stretch of seven quality opponents over the Knicks' final eight games of December. One thing to watch for at MSG on Sunday is the reception the crowd gives to Carmelo Anthony -- and how he responds to it.