Simply saying that Amar’e Stoudemire played his best game of the season on Wednesday in the Knicks’ 83-78 win over the Chicago Bulls would not do his effort justice.
Having already played a mostly productive 25 minutes, Knicks head coach Mike Woodson put Stoudemire back in the game with 4:44 to play and the Knicks leading, 74-70.
The game was tied at 74 after a Joakim Noah tip-in, but with 2:34 left, Stoudemire hit an 18-foot jumper to break the tie and give the Knicks the lead for good.
That jumper topped a highly-encouraging 14-point, 9-rebound effort in a season-high 30 minutes after he played 27 on Tuesday evening at the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“It was great, to be out there playing in a desperation game down the stretch, it feels good, I’ll tell you that much,” Stoudemire said. “A lot of hard work has been put in this year to get back in top shape.”
“This is the longest I’ve been able to play him and he’s really looked good in the last two games,” Woodson added. “It’s kind of nice to see in terms of starting the season only being able to play him a certain amount of minutes and couldn’t play back-to-back. His minutes have gradually grown, so we’re starting to benefit from it.”
Stoudemire has scored in double-figures in four of his last five games and hasn’t looked better this season. He passed a big test on Wednesday by playing extended minutes on consecutive nights for the first time all season.
Now, the question becomes whether or not this can become a regular thing. If Stoudemire can keep this up, it adds an important dimension on both sides of the ball the Knicks have not had.
The Knicks will not practice on Thursday in advance of another back-to-back set consisting of a trip to the Boston Celtics on Friday and a matchup with the Atlanta Hawks at MSG on Saturday.
As expected, Stoudemire plans to take Thursday as a recovery day before playing in both games this weekend.
“My personal goals are out of the roof because that’s what keeps me motivated, keeps me determined and helps me improve as a player,” Stoudemire said. “As far as how I feel now, I feel great, I feel strong. I’m never satisfied, I want to continue to get better. I’m getting back into a rhythm and my confidence is starting to rise a little bit more.”