This is early fourth quarter, Sunday afternoon in Atlanta. Amare Stoudemire sets a screen for Baron Davis, gets the ball back on a roll to the rim, and finishes with a thunderous one-handed dunk over a Hawks defender.
It was vintage Stoudemire. And for a Knicks team hoping that Stoudemire can return to form before the playoffs start, it was a welcome sign.
"I felt great, strong. My back feels phenomenal," Stoudemire told reporters after the Knicks' one-point win over the Hawks.
Stoudemire finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, a strong complement to Carmelo Anthony's's game-high 39 points. It was also a strong statement from a duo that hasn't always played its best together.
"Amare was phenomenal," Anthony told reporters in Atlanta. "The way we played off each other -- when he had it, he had it. When I had it, I had it.’"
Even more encouraging for the Knicks? Nine of Stoudemire's 22 came courtesy of pick-and-roll plays. He went 4-for-4 in five pick-and-roll opportunities against Atlanta, and hit nine of his 13 shots on the afternoon.
An interesting wrinkle to Stoudemire's line is, it came with Tyson Chandler on the bench.
For most of the season, Chandler has been used as the Knicks' primary screener on the pick-and-roll. That's a role Stoudemire seemed to thrive in last season, when he averaged 25 points per game.
Stoudemire's scoring has dipped considerably this year. His lack of opportunities in the pick-and-roll is one of several reasons cited for the decrease.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Stoudemire is getting two pick-and-roll opportunities per game this season when Chandler's in the lineup, averaging two points off pick-and-rolls. Eleven percent of Stoudemire's plays are of the pick-and-roll variety. His pick-and-roll numbers last season are similar (three points per game on 2.5 pick-and-roll opportunities).
But it's interesting to note that when Chandler's been out this season, Stoudemire seems to thrive as the Knicks' primary screener.
In the three games Chandler has missed, Stoudemire scored seven points on 90 percent shooting in nearly five pick-and-roll opportunities per game. Stoudemire's overall numbers when Chandler's out are solid, too. He has scored 22 points on 65 percent shooting in the three games without Chandler in the lineup.
Of course, it's only natural for Stoudemire's scoring to increase when Chandler's on the bench. With Stoudemire alone at center, he has much more room to operate in the paint.
But this does raise a legitimate question: Can Mike Woodson find a way to get Stoudemire more opportunities in the pick-and-roll while Chandler's in the lineup? Is it possible to get Stoudemire more minutes when Chandler's on the bench?
Presumably, this would involve getting Stoudemire more time with the second unit to give him the chance to play center.
Woodson insists that Stoudemire will remain in the starting lineup the rest of the way, so it may take some lineup juggling to get him in the second unit.
With Jared Jeffries out, a Stoudemire-led second unit could be awfully vulnerable on defense. But it seems like giving Stoudemire minutes at center while Chandler rests would boost his offense.
With Chandler on the bench, Stoudemire is averaging 23.2 points per 36 minutes; with Chandler on the floor, Stoudemire's scoring dips to 17 points per 36 minutes. His field goal percentage sans Chandler is much higher (56 percent) than it is with the 7-1 center on the floor (44 percent).
Clearly, Woodson's not going to take minutes away from Chandler just to get Stoudemire going. The Knicks went 6-1 under Woodson when the trio -- along with Jeremy Lin -- was healthy earlier this season.
But is there a way to get Stoudemire more time on the floor when Chandler's on the bench without hurting the team?
That's an issue Woodson may want to consider after Stoudemire's performance on Sunday.
Thanks to ESPN Stats & Information and NBA.com for statistical support.
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