NEW YORK (AP) – Mike D’Antoni finally was able to rest his top players. All the New York Knicks had to do was blow out someone for a change.
“This makes it easier, that’s for sure,” D’Antoni said. “Hopefully, they can figure that out.”
Amare Stoudemire scored 23 points, Wilson Chandler added 21, and the Knicks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 112-98 on Wednesday night to snap a three-game losing streak.
Rookie Landry Fields had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks, who took advantage of an Oklahoma City team that appeared to leave its legs in Charlotte. New York got its transition game going late in the first half, never really slowed down in the second, and beat the Thunder for the first time in four meetings.
“We had a good win last night. We didn’t come in with the right mindset,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “They’re a physical team. They had their hands on us and really pushed us around a little bit too much tonight and we didn’t take the challenge.”
In a game featuring the NBA’s top two scorers, Stoudemire nearly matched league leader Kevin Durant, who finished with 26. But Stoudemire had far more help, with the Knicks putting six players in double figures. Raymond Felton added 12 points and 10 assists.
Felton was playing 39.1 minutes per game, fourth in the league, and Stoudemire wasn’t far behind because the Knicks rarely open big enough leads to sit their top players for long. D’Antoni said he needed to get more time for his reserves, and this time nobody played more than Stoudemire’s 37 minutes, a welcome break for a team that was drained by an emotional stretch last week.
“It was a tough week,” Stoudemire said. “We were fatigued, we were tired. Honestly we were. So I think tonight showed that we got enough rest and we played with a lot of energy. We have a tough week still ahead of us, but we’re starting off right.”
D’Antoni emptied his bench in the fourth quarter as New York outscored Oklahoma City 16-5 in fast-break points.
Russell Westbrook scored 23 points for the Thunder, who lost for the second time in eight games.
Ronny Turiaf, banged up of late, had 11 points in 22 energetic minutes off the bench for the Knicks, who blocked nine shots.
The Knicks bounced back after their eight-game winning streak was followed by losses to Boston, Miami and Cleveland last week. This was the opener of another difficult stretch, which includes a visit from Chicago on Christmas before a trip to Florida next week for games against Miami and Orlando.
Instead, it wasn’t so tough at all. The Knicks scored easily and made a number of solid plays on defense, delighting a crowd that’s used to them struggling on that end. Stoudemire earned a rousing ovation for a block of Westbrook’s fast-break layup attempt with about 8 1/2 minutes left, and the applause kept going when his teammates hustled back and forced a couple of more misses.
Oklahoma City outscored Charlotte 31-12 in the fourth quarter on Tuesday night in a 99-81 victory that turned out to be Larry Brown’s final game as coach of the Bobcats. But that might have taken something out of the Thunder, who had a three-game road winning streak snapped.
“A team like that, you give easy baskets to, they get confidence,” Durant said. “So a tough loss. You can’t get too low.”
Durant and Stoudemire both started quickly, with Durant scoring 13 points and Stoudemire 10 as Oklahoma City took a 28-27 lead after one quarter. It remained close for nearly all the second until the Thunder’s legs suddenly stopped running.
With the Knicks up by two, Fields made a 3-pointer, then Felton blew by the Thunder for a layup and then Stoudemire sprinted past them to catch an alley-oop pass from Felton for a dunk and a 60-51 lead. The Knicks pushed it again on their next trip, with Felton finding Danilo Gallinari for a 3-pointer in the corner for a 3-pointer that capped a 10-0 spurt.
“That’s kind of what we do,” Fields said. “We have smart players and on the fast break whenever the ball’s in Ray’s hands, he makes plays.”
Westbrook had the final two baskets of the half to cut it to 63-55.
The Knicks quickly blew it open again, using a 15-2 spurt to open an 80-61 bulge on Felton’s fast-break layup with 6:20 left in the third quarter. New York led by 12 after three and pushed the advantage into the 20s midway through the fourth.
NOTES: Knicks president Donnie Walsh attended a game for the first time since having hip replacement surgery Nov. 16. He said he wouldn’t remember ever being away from an arena for so long. … The game featured the top three career scorers from the 2007 draft. Durant came in averaging 25.5 points since being the No. 2 pick, Jeff Green (No. 5) was at 14.3, and Chandler (No. 23) at 13.9.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)