NEW YORK -- The only downer on a day of domination for Amare Stoudemire was the technical foul he picked up from referee Bob Delaney for skipping in frustration after he was whistled for a reaching-in foul.
To Stoudemire, it was like being ticketed for driving 56 mph in a 55-mph zone.
To Delaney, a former New Jersey state trooper, it was a violation that probably only merited a warning.
At least that's what Stoudemire said Delaney told him.
"After talking to him, he really didn't think that was a bad play on my part. He felt more lenient, toward I might get that one taken away. So I'll see how it goes," Stoudemire said after scoring 41 points on 17-for-21 shooting in one of the best games he has played all season, a 117-103 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers that kept the New York Knicks from falling to .500.
The technical he picked up Sunday afternoon was Stoudemire's 14th of the season, moving him within two techs of the dreaded No. 16 -- which brings with it an automatic one-game suspension, as would technical fouls No. 18, 20, 22 ...
Stoudemire has had one technical foul rescinded this season. The player he shared the league lead with, Dwight Howard of Orlando, has had four techs wiped off his record after further review by the league office.
"I don't know how you play the game without emotion. The guy never curses, he never is overly done," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said of Stoudemire. "If he was my son, I'd say he's pretty good. So I don't know. I don't get it."
Stoudemire's 41-point performance overshadowed another strong game from Knicks rookie Landry Fields, who made five 3-pointers, shot 10-for-13 and scored 25 points with a team-leading 10 rebounds just a few hours after he was conspicuously absent from a proposed three-team deal between the Knicks, Nuggets and Timberwolves. The trade talks, reported by ESPN's Chris Broussard, involve sending Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks, Eddy Curry to the Timberwolves and Corey Brewer and Wilson Chandler to the Nuggets.
Stoudemire and Fields led a team effort that produce nearly 60 percent shooting, 11 3-pointers, seven steals and seven blocks in a matchup that the Knicks took control of early in the third quarter. They held on down the stretch thanks to Stoudemire's 5-for-5 shooting in a fourth quarter in which he actually did get demonstrative, doing several push-ups before standing up after he was fouled by Elton Brand and then went to the foul line for his 40th and 41st points.
"I was in the weight room the past few days, and I was feeling like I was getting stronger right there," Stoudemire said.
Whether the Knicks get stronger as a team by adding Anthony in a trade continues to be the No. 1 question surrounding the team as the days count down to the NBA's Feb. 24 trading deadline. Team president Donnie Walsh gave somewhat of a tantalizing hint of where the Knicks believe they stand by saying: "We have a better feeling for what's going to happen."
A good feeling? No.
But there is a little more clarity to the picture, Walsh said.
"I don't feel good or bad. It takes two to tango, so I have no real knowledge of what other teams will do. But we're out here looking and seeing if we can do something," Walsh said. "If you get something you think is going to help your team, then you get excited. And it hasn't come to the point where I'm excited."
The Knicks moved into the future in another way Sunday as Timofey Mozgov started at center in place of Ronny Turiaf (ankle) and ahead of Chandler, who was D'Antoni's preferred starter at power forward for a long stretch of the first half of the season when the Knicks tried to go small against everybody, leaving Stoudemire to bang bodies with opposing centers. During Friday night's loss in Philadelphia, Brand feasted upon the matchup D'Antoni fed him, eating up Shawne Williams in the first quarter to the tune of 19 points.
D'Antoni went so far Sunday to say he envisions Mozgov becoming the permanent starter in the middle if the Russian proves himself worthy of the task, and Mozgov certainly did not hurt his chances of retaining the job for the Knicks' next game, Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Mozgov shot just 1-for-3 but blocked three shots and grabbed eight rebounds in nearly 30 minutes as D'Antoni went with a tight eight-man rotation, using Chandler, Toney Douglas and Williams off the bench.
Stoudemire tied his Knicks high with 41 in the 17th 40-point game of his career, Fields' 25 was a career-high, Raymond Felton had his 21st double-double (13 points and 13 assists) and New York went 46-of-77 from the field for its highest shooting percentage (.597) of the season. The Knicks also improved to 17-4 when hitting at least 10 3-pointers.
"We were all focused tonight," Stoudemire said. "We knew how important this was for us. I think in Philadelphia they caught us off guard with their energy and the way they played. We came out tonight and retaliated."