WHAT IT MEANS: The Prodigal Sun returned to Phoenix, motivated to make his former team pay for letting him walk. The New York Knicks are glad they did. In a dominating effort, Amare Stoudemire, who left Phoenix as a free agent, signing a five-year, $100 million mega deal with New York in the offseason, scored 23 points in his first game back as the Knicks rolled to their most convincing win of the season, Over the lowly Suns on Friday night. They outrebounded Phoenix and knocked down 17 3-pointers, tied for second in franchise history. The 3-point barrage from the NBA's most prolific offense came as a result of its usual terrific spacing and ball movement. And playing the defensively inept Suns didn’t hurt.
The Knicks (21-14) have now won three straight games, while the Suns (14-20) -- who have struggled ever since making the blockbuster trade that sent Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson to the Magic -- have dropped three in a row, seven of eight and 11 of 17. The win improved the Knicks to 11-7 on the road. New York doesn’t really need Steve Nash (14 points, nine assists), but it would gladly take him. If you’re not aware at this point, the Suns are in rebuilding mode. They made that decision when they decided to not take the risk on Stoudemire and his injury-prone body. Only time will tell if that decision was the right one.
TURNING POINT: It was a six-point Knicks lead with 6:31 left. And it became 12 shortly thereafter. Shawne Williams and Landry Fields knocked down consecutive 3s to blow the game open and put the ‘Bockers up by double digits, 43-31, for the first time all night. The Suns sliced that deficit to eight early in the third quarter, but Raymond Felton connected for a pair of 3s and all of a sudden Alvin Gentry was asking for a timeout, down by 15, at the 8:48 mark.
Then Williams hit two more 3s and, suddenly, it was 75-54. Just like that, it had gone from an eight- to 21-point differential. And you wonder why analysts always talk about how the implementation of the 3-point arc changed the game? Stoudemire’s emphatic alley-oop slam increased the Knicks' bulge to 23. It was lights out from there. New York fans could go to sleep on the East Coast knowing full-well their team was going to come out on top. The Knicks ended up hitting seven 3-pointers in the third quarter, which resulted in 21 of their 38 points in the stanza.
CLUTCH PERFORMERS: Stoudemire. Stoudemire. Did we mention Stoudemire? Whether he was shooting jumpers off the pick-and-roll, converting acrobatic layups inside or throwing down the occasional dunk, “STAT” proved to be unstoppable. In 31 minutes, he went 9-for-18 from the field, snagged nine rebounds and the Knicks were plus-22 while he was on the court. Stoudemire told reporters before the game that the Suns couldn’t stop him. He was right.
"It's a great win for us," Stoudemire told ESPN after the game. "We took the momentum from the San Antonio game and got another big win in Phoenix."
And in support of Stoudemire, Felton notched his first career triple-double: 23 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Add in the fact that rookie Landry Fields didn’t miss and had a double-double himself (14 points on 6-for-6 shooting, 2-for-2 at the free throw line and 10 rebounds) -- and the Knicks were well on their way. They ended up with six players in double digits.
MOZGOV MOMENT: He played. He conquered. Then he was tossed. Timofey Mozgov was ejected with 3:31 remaining after pushing Robin Lopez with an open hand as he fought to establish position in the post. Mozgov finished with two points and one rebound in four minutes. Credit Mozgov with the Gordie Howe hat trick of NBA big men: a point, a rebound and an ejection.
UP NEXT: The Knicks continue their West Coast swing. They’ll face the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night, the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night and close it out with the Utah Jazz on Wednesday evening. They finally return to the Garden on Jan. 14 to face the Sacramento Kings.