Amar'e Stoudemire Scores 30-Plus Again: New York Knicks on a Tear

Sammy MakkiAnalyst IDecember 6, 2010

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 30:  Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks on the court against the New Jersey Nets on November 30, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

For the first 11 games of the season, it looked like another lost cause for the Knicks. They lost six straight games and were 3-8, all but dead in any playoff possibility.

Then the next 11 games came around and you wouldn't believe how bad the Knicks were. With Monday night's 121-114 win over the Timberwolves, powered by Stoudemire's 34 points, the Knicks have won 10 out of 11 and are pushing the Heat for the third seed in the Eastern conference.

The Heat and Hawks both won on Monday, keeping the Knicks sixth in the standings, but there isn't a whole lot of room between them and the struggling Magic as the Knicks are 2.5 games behind for the second seed.

This is an unbelievable development. The Knicks weren't supposed to be this kind of team with the additions of Stoudemire and Raymond Felton. They were supposed to perhaps contend for a playoff spot.

Now, they have been taking advantage of the easiest schedule of any team in the league so far, but so what? If it were so easy, why didn't the Knicks beat these teams in the last decade?

The improvement is incredible and the Knicks are on another five-game winning streak after having one end to the Hawks not too long ago. The Knicks will have a chance to perhaps extend the streak to seven as they face the lowly Raptors and Wizards before the schedule gets extremely tough.

Starting Sunday afternoon at the Garden, the Knicks can prove whether they're elite or just a contender. Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets come to town in what the Knicks hope is Anthony's last time as a visitor. That's followed by two games next week against the Celtics and Heat, both on national television.

It's lining up great, as the Knicks can prove to the country that they can beat the teams above them, plus they can gain in the standings.

What's triggered this entire hot streak is the play of Amare Stoudemire. He started out as an above-average forward but suddenly, he's unstoppable. During the current winning streak, Stoudemire has scored 30 or more points in each game.

When games are close in the fourth quarter, Stoudemire takes control and dominates as he did on Monday night. He scored 12 of his 34 points in the final period and helped the Knicks fend off an impressive showing from an awful Wolves team.

He came to New York to win consistently and was not happy when the team was its same old self. Now, they look like they can challenge in the East, at least until they show they can't beat those great teams.

The good thing for the Knicks, though, is they're starting to win at home. After starting 2-5 at home, they've won two straight to go along with their NBA best nine road wins.

They played a wacky game against Minnesota. The Wolves weren't missing any shots to start the game, putting down 14 of their first 15 attempts, but the way the Knicks score, it didn't matter. The Knicks just kept hanging in until the crazy shooting declined and their defense tightened in the third.

Eventually, they'd go on a 12-0 run in the third, sparked by five straight steals and held the lead for good. Danilo Gallinari put up a clutch three with under 50 seconds to go in regulation and it gave the Knicks a commanding seven point lead. They'd put the game away with free throws and improved to 13-9 on the season.

The Knicks now have a five-game lead over the ninth seed in the race for a playoff spot. They look like they're on their way to playing a first-round series at the Garden and if they can beat the elite such as Boston or Miami, you never know where this will end up.