NEW YORK (AP) — Amare Stoudemire arrived in July and announced the New York Knicks were back, vowing things would be different for the longtime losers.
“This was the plan,” he said. “The plan was to have success.”
Right now, nobody can stop him from backing up his boast.
Stoudemire scored 34 points to lead the surging Knicks to their fifth straight victory, 121-114 over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.
Wilson Chandler added 21 points and Raymond Felton had 18 points and 11 assists for the Knicks, who won for the 10th time in 11 games and improved to 13-9, the first time they’ve been four games over .500 since finishing the 2000-01 season with a 48-34 record.
The key has been Stoudemire, who has surpassed 30 in every game during the winning streak, the first Knicks player with five straight 30-point games since Stephon Marbury from Feb. 4-11, 2005.
“I don’t know if you can play any better than he has the last couple of weeks,” said Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, who also coached Stoudemire in Phoenix and said the All-Star is capable of extending his roll “close to 82 games.”
“His power, strength, now his outside shooting, his choices that he’s making, just seems like it’s easy,” D’Antoni added.
Kevin Love had 33 points and 15 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who duplicated the sizzling start they had in a victory over Cleveland on Saturday but didn’t have the defense to make it stand up. Michael Beasley, who missed that victory with a sprained ankle, returned and scored 25.
Coming off his second player of the week award of the season, Stoudemire shot 15 of 23 from the field, reaching the 30-point plateau with one of his powerful dunks that stretched the lead to 105-96 with 4:18 remaining. He scored 12 in the fourth quarter, but the Knicks didn’t put it away until Danilo Gallinari’s 3-pointer made it 114-107 with 49 seconds to play.
Following a 3-8 start that seemed to indicate another long winter in New York, the Knicks have won five in a row for the second time this season. They will try for their first six-game winning streak since January 2006 when they host Toronto on Wednesday.
Luke Ridnour scored 16 for the Timberwolves, who got off to sensational start but fell apart in the second half. Already dealing with a number of injuries, they were hurt by the loss of former Knicks center Darko Milicic, who scored 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting in eight minutes before leaving with an injured right quadriceps.
“This was a competitive game throughout,” Love said. “It was fun to play in. It just wasn’t fun when the final buzzer went off.”
Love had 31 points and 31 rebounds when the Wolves beat the Knicks on Nov. 12 in Minneapolis, the first 30-30 game in the NBA since Moses Malone in 1982. He hit his first seven shots Monday, but struggled after that and was overpowered when forced to play Stoudemire after Milicic’s departure.
Trailing by seven in the third quarter, the Knicks came up with five steals during a 12-0 burst that gave them an 82-77 lead on Felton’s layup with 5:16 left in the period. After surrendering 68 points in the first half, the Knicks limited the Wolves to 18 on 6-for-17 shooting in the third, surging to a 92-86 lead entering the fourth.
“When we pick up the tempo on our defense, that’s when we’re really a good team,” Felton said. “So we’ve got to keep it going, just got to continue to get better, not be complacent and try to keep this thing rolling.”
Minnesota cut it to four a few times early in the final period, but Stoudemire answered each time with a bucket. He was averaging 29 during the previous 10 games, giving the Knicks everything they could have hoped since signing him from Phoenix this summer.
“They just had it going,” Beasley said. “They’re the hottest team in the league right now. Amare Stoudemire is the hottest player. When it counted, we couldn’t stop them.”
The Wolves made their first nine shots, and when they finally missed, Milicic grabbed the rebound and fed Love inside for an easy hoop. They hit 14 of 15 to start the game and 16 of 21 (76 percent) in the opening quarter, but led only 36-32 because the Knicks made 65 percent.
The Knicks grabbed the lead early in the second but couldn’t contain Love, who set a franchise record with his eighth consecutive successful 3-point attempt. His free throws gave Minnesota an 11-point advantage with 3:06 left, and the Wolves led 68-61 at halftime.
NOTES: The Wolves said an MRI confirmed that F Anthony Tolliver has a sprained right MCL and he would miss six to eight weeks. Tolliver wrote on his Twitter page that he’d be back sooner. … Stoudemire is the first Knicks player with multiple player of the week wins in the same season since Patrick Ewing won three times in 1992-93.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)