WHAT IT MEANS: The Knicks made it 10 wins in their last 11 games, adhering to Mike D'Antoni's philosophy -- perhaps to a fault, at least in the first quarter -- that a persistent, productive offense trumps anything a team can accomplish defensively. New York certainly didn't do much defensively in the early going, but the Knicks went to their greatest strength time and again in the fourth quarter as Amare Stoudemire scored 12 of his 34 points in the final period.
It was only the fourth win in nine home games for the Knicks, who have won seven straight on the road and five straight overall. New York improved to 6-2 on the second night of a back-to-back and avenged an early-season loss at Minnesota in which Kevin Love torched them for 31 points and 31 rebounds. Love opened 7-for-7 in this one but was 3-for-11 the rest of the way, finishing with 33 points and 15 rebounds.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Shawne Williams, who until three games ago was the 11th man on the depth chart, was on the floor throughout crunch time again, playing the entire final period after scoring 14 fourth-quarter points against Toronto on Sunday. He hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 4:49 left off Stoudemire's only assist for a 103-96 lead, and Stoudemire dunked off a perfect pick-and-roll pass from Raymond Felton on the next possession to make it a nine-point game. Danilo Gallinari clinched it by making a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired for a 114-107 lead with 49 seconds left.
TURNING POINT: The Knicks outscored the Wolves 31-18 in the third quarter to retake the lead after falling behind in the first half by as many as 11 -- not all that huge of a deficit given that Minnesota got off to an incredible start offensively, making 14 of its first 15 shots. Stoudemire was the Knicks' go-to guy throughout the fourth quarter, becoming the first member of the Knicks since Stephon Marbury in February 2005 to score at least 30 points in five straight games.
THE LINEUP: Despite having Ronny Turiaf available for the first time in five games, D'Antoni chose to stick with a starting five of Stoudemire playing center, Wilson Chandler at power forward, Gallinari at small forward, with ond Felton and Landry Fields in the backcourt. Asked if he considers that his strongest lineup, D'Antoni said he did. "Statistically, yeah. Plus-minus, yes. My gut right now, yes. So we'll go with that until we sense, or something stares you in the face that looks a little different," he said. "It might change again. If Ronny comes in and gives us a great boost on defense and our offense stays the same, then we’ll go with a change again."
WHAT'S NEXT: Yet another game with the Raptors, at home on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m., the fourth game between the teams in the past 47 days (when their preseason meeting in Montreal is included). The Knicks defeated the Raptors 98-93 in the season opener, then defeated them 116-99 Sunday. The teams won't see each other again until April 5 when they meet for the fourth and final time. Toronto (8-13) lost to Indiana by 24 points Monday night.