When Amar'e Stoudemire takes the floor for the All-Star Game this Sunday, he will represent a Knicks team that is at or above .500. Given recent trends, such a guarantee heading into the break is kind of neat. It certainly didn't look like a sure thing after Friday's loss to the Lakers, which included roughly ten minutes of competitive sports before the Knicks just got razed off their home court. A feeble, defenseless outing against Kobe Bryant and company had them teetering perilously on the precipice of break-even for the first time since Thanksgiving.
On Saturday, it was off to Newark, where the Nets were plenty eager to kick the Knicks over the ledge and into the Loser's Bog (which is the exact opposite of the Player's Ball). It was more than a little frightening. An away loss against their spiteful neighbors seemed too diabolically poetic a plunge to be avoided. When Stoudemire and his sprained right big toe (which is the Stoudemire of Stoudemire's toes) were deemed unfit to play minutes before Saturday's tip-off, Knick fans assumed the fetal position and prepared for the worst.
Lo and behold, our fears were unwarranted. Minus its spiritual leader and presiding on-court authority, the Knick offense took on a very "Yay, no parents!" feel. The little kids ruled the floor. Any hopes of replicating Amar'e's inside presence were dashed with Timofey Mozgov and Ronny Turiaf's collective inability to practice nonviolent resistance. Foul trouble limited those two to just twenty and ten minutes respectively, so we saw plenty of small lineups and all kinds of unbridled recklessness.
The Knick shooters (i.e. pretty much everybody) heaved early and often, with Wilson Chandler pacing the first unit from downtown (3–6) and the Toney Douglas–Bill Walker duo (a combined 6–10) sharpshooting off the bench. Save for a hideously inaccurate third quarter in which only one of ten three-pointers found the net, the Knicks shot themselves a win. New York drained 16 of 34 treys on the evening, and the Nets did their part by turning the ball over eighteen times and pretty consistently failing to close out on the perimeter. A Mozgov and-one sandwiched between two of Landry Fields's Landriest three-pointers sealed the win down the stretch, lifting the Knicks back to a game over .500.
New York plays just once more before the break, against the Hawks on Wednesday. They've already lost twice to Atlanta and might very well drop a third. No matter what, though, the Knick faithful will head into the All-Star break as fans of a team that's won at least as much as it's lost. For the time being, we'll take it.