New York: Amare Stoudemire had 22 points and 12 rebounds, Jeremy Lin added 18 points and 10 assists, and the New York Knicks made it four straight easy victories under Mike Woodson by beating the Toronto Raptors 106-87 on Tuesday night.
Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler each scored 17 points for the Knicks, who bring a week`s worth of momentum to Philadelphia on Wednesday night for a matchup with the Atlantic Division-leading 76ers. The Knicks rode another night of balanced scoring and renewed defensive intensity to a comfortable lead for most of the final three quarters.
DeMar DeRozan scored 17 points for the Raptors. Jose Calderon had 11 points and nine assists in his return from a five-game absence with a sprained right ankle, but backup Jerryd Bayless was lost to a left hip pointer in the second half.
The Knicks were right around their stats through Woodson`s first three games, when they allowed 89 points per game on 39 per cent shooting while averaging 112.7 points and outscoring opponents by 16 per game.
It`s a complete turnaround since perhaps their most deflating effort under Mike D`Antoni, a 106-94 home loss to the 76ers on March 11, when the coach lamented that the Knicks didn`t always play hard. He lasted just one more game before deciding to resign last Wednesday.
Effort hasn`t been a problem under Woodson, particularly on the defensive end. Anthony even acknowledged Monday playing with a defensive energy that wasn`t there earlier in the season, perhaps because the new coach has stressed accountability from his top players.
Asked his reaction to Anthony`s comments, Woodson said: "I can`t explain that, I can`t. I wish I could. We probably wouldn`t be sitting in this position that we`re sitting in today, fighting for a playoff spot."
There`s still plenty of time to get one, especially if the Knicks keep playing like this. They came in a half-game ahead of Milwaukee for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, and despite their inconsistency, are only four games behind the 76ers.
They kept slapping at balls in the fourth to put the game out of reach. Chandler got his hands on one fourth-quarter pass, then Anthony stole it after the Raptors recovered, leading the break and hooking up with Chandler for an alley-oop slam with 5:11 left that made it 95-77 and had the Knicks jumping around in celebration near midcourt.
Andrea Bargnani scored 15 points but shot just 5 of 15 for the Raptors, who finished 2-3 on a five-game trip. A victory would have given them a second winning five-game trip this season.
The teams` previous meeting came during the height of Linsanity, when Lin made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with a half-second left to give the Knicks a 90-87 victory in Toronto on Feb. 14. Lin scored 27 points that night, but he no longer needs to be the scorer he was then, with many more weapons surrounding him.
Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler combined for 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting in the first quarter, helping the Knicks take a 27-24 lead. Defences ruled the second quarter, when both teams show below 40 per cent. The Knicks led 53-44 at halftime.
The Knicks pushed the lead to 15 with a five-point possession with 7:47 left in the third quarter, as Landry Fields made a layup while Raptors starting centre Aaron Gray was fouling Chandler away from the ball. Gray was hit with two technical fouls and ejected for his reaction, and Lin made both free throws before Chandler hit another.
The lead grew to 16 before the Knicks took a 79-68 advantage to the fourth, when they led by as much as 23.