Melo, Amar'e are better together

Are Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire -- two superstars who seemed incompatible for so long -- finally starting to figure it out?

It certainly seems that way.

They played extremely well during the New York Knicks' sweep of a five-game homestand: Stoudemire averaged 18 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 72 percent from the field, and Anthony scored 24.6 points, pulled down six rebounds and had four assists per game.

"We both are perennial All-Stars. We've been in this league a long time, we've accomplished a lot as individual players, so we know what it takes to win," said Stoudemire, who underwent knee surgery in October and made his season debut on Jan. 1. "All it takes is for us to get out there and play and build some experience and we'll figure it out."

After struggling to coexist during their first season and a half together, each player added important facets to his game that benefit the other man.

Stoudemire has developed a strong post game. With his back to the basket, he can draw a defender to the paint and open space for Anthony on the other side of the floor. Stoudemire has also been effective at cutting in open space without the ball.

Anthony, to his credit, has become a more willing passer this season. He found Stoudemire open near the rim again and again in recent games.

Case in point: Late in the third quarter Monday, Anthony began to drive on Detroit's Kyle Singler. Stoudemire's man, Greg Monroe, turned to peek at Anthony.

Stoudemire cut along the baseline and Anthony found him in stride. Stoudemire took contact at the rim from Jason Maxiell and finished with a reverse layup.

"I saw it happen before the play even started," Anthony said. "He looked at me and I saw him go backdoor. It was just a matter of him finishing."

Added Stoudemire: "It was just an instinct play."

That Anthony and Stoudemire are playing on instinct is a great sign for the Knicks (31-15).

For a long time, that didn't seem to be the case. The Knicks had a sub-.500 record with Anthony and Stoudemire in the starting lineup entering play this season. And last season was a borderline disaster.

Anthony scored more points (37 to 27), shot a higher percentage (45 to 41) and got to the free throw line with much more frequency (11.7 to 7.3) per 48 minutes when Stoudemire was on the bench.

This season, the Knicks' offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) is just one point less when Stoudemire and Anthony share the floor (108) than it is on average (109).

Anthony's field goal percentage is 4 percent lower when he shares the floor with Stoudemire, but his shooting percentage from beyond the arc is 6 percent higher, a product of Stoudemire drawing defenders in the post.

It also helps that Stoudemire has accepted his role off the Knicks' bench. This allows Anthony -- who leads the NBA with 8.6 points per game in the first period -- to start at power forward and take advantage of mismatches against bigger, slower defenders, particularly early in games.

So only one of them starts, but Anthony and Stoudemire both finish. And there's no denying that in the 257 minutes they've shared the floor this season, they have more closely resembled the All-Star duo the Knicks had always hoped to see.

To Anthony, it was just a matter of time.

"We got our feet wet," he said. "We don’t have to worry about lockouts and trades, anything like that, any injuries. Both of us got our feet wet, we got our feet wet as a team."

Since he first put on a Knicks uniform in February 2011, Anthony has been asked again and again if he and Stoudemire can coexist together.

"I'm getting tired of that question," Anthony said.

He won't have to hear it if he and Stoudemire can continue to play the way they have the past five games.