Monday, February 7, 2011

Amar'e Carries Knicks After Walking With Them

With the Knicks having lost 10 of their last 14 games, an anonymous Knicks player was asked if he believes in Amar'e Stoudemire before the conclusion of the Knicks' home-and-away series with the Philadelphia 76ers:

One night I dreamed I was breaking down the court with Amar'e.
Many highlights from my season flashed across Gardenvision.
In each scene I noticed footprints on the court.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed
that during my slump,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Amar'e,
"You promised me STAT,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during
the most trying periods of my season
there have only been one
set of footprints on the court.
Why, when I needed you most,
you have not been there for me?"

Amar'e replied,
"The times when you have
seen only one set of footprints,
is when I carried you."

Game 1: There
In Friday night's game in Philadelphia, the Knicks saw a potential game-tying runner from Shawne Williams rim out at the buzzer. Shockingly, Williams, the league's most accurate long distance caller, passed on an open, corner three before cutting to the rack.

The 98-100 loss dropped the Knicks to 25-24 on the season and raised the 76ers to within two games of the 'bockers in the standings. Particularly disheartening was that the Sixers outscored the Knicks 27-16 in the fourth quarter to grab a game that was seemingly already secured by a solid Knicks' third quarter effort.

Heading into the final quarter all was well in blue and orange and Non-Star point guard Ray Felton had rediscovering the form that had everyone thinking he'd be named an All-Star for the first time in his career. However, an excruciating scoreless stretch, a few key buckets from Walking Dead extra Elton Brand, who may have officially earned recurring role status with a back-from-the-dead, 33 and 16 game, and that late Williams' miss gave the 76ers a message win.

The Message? "Objects in Mirror May Be Closer Than They Appear."

Public perception of the Sixers and the Knicks may still be driven by their disparate starts to the season, but they are both on the same stretch of road from here until the postseason. The Sixers' dismal start is behind them. Just like the Knicks' November-into-December surge. And Philly is gaining.

After the road loss, Stoudemire told the assemblage of digital recorders held in front of his face, "We had a chance to win, we should have played with more energy. Once we came back and took the lead, we let down. We've done that before and we've got to correct it."

Game 2: And Back Again
And, boy, did he ever come correct in the Knicks' 117-103 revenge win yesterday. The performance delivered by Amar'e Stoudemire during the Super Sunday matinee is what franchise-caliber basketball players do: They step up and they carry their teams to must-have victories. They dominate. Stoudemire matched his season-high point total with 41, and he did it by making 17 of his 21 field goal attempts while going a perfect 7 for 7 from the free-throw line. This performance was so economical it could balance the US budget.

The Knicks posted three 30-point quarters in this game after being held to just 16 in the fourth quarter of their come-from-ahead loss two days earlier. A large part of the consistent effort was the ever-increasing production of Amar'e. He started strong and finished stronger: scoring 10 points in the first quarter, 9 in the second, 10 in the third and 12 in the fourth. And, perhaps in hopes of getting even stronger still, Amar'e hit the deck for a few push ups before stepping to the line late in the game.

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