"Strong" was the theme of Stoudemire's game against the Philadelphia 76ers. New York's power forward lived up to the name of his position by contributing a team-high 21 points to go along with nine rebounds in the Knicks' 82-79 win.
At the start of the year, it was quite apparent Stoudemire was not in midseason form yet, as was the case with most NBA players. But that stretch continued way past the point of acceptability, and even with a point guard, Stat still didn't return to form.
The worry about his future and happiness with the team ensued.
In fact, Stoudemire looked like a shell of his former self and began settling for jump shots instead of using his strengths, which have always been working in the paint and finishing strong.
It became routine to see Stoudemire have his shots blocked by any big man he went up against, and it just looked like he didn't have the same intensity of old.
But that seems to be rapidly changing.
Stoudemire had some in-your-face dunks tonight and had no problem finishing strong against the interior defense of the Philadelphia 76ers. He's no longer settling for the tougher mid-range game and is flourishing when the Knicks are moving the ball.
Stoudemire has not only played some of his best offense of the season lately but his defensive intensity and awareness have greatly improved as well. Blocked shots are becoming more of the norm, and instead of relying on Tyson Chandler to make defensive plays, Stoudemire is going out and making his own.
Ask Elton Brand if that's true after Stat viciously stuffed him in the fourth quarter.
With the Knicks clicking in all aspects on the floor, things will only get better with Stat playing at the top of his game. There's no reason why the Knicks can't keep this winning streak going, and Stoudemire will be vital to that happening.