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Knicks rise while Mavs still tops

For the first time since the Pleistocene era -- or the decade-old days of Latrell Sprewell, Allan Houston and Jeff Van Gundy -- the New York Knicks are being talked about in terms that don't involve lawsuits, punch lines or salary-cap woes. Mike D'Antoni's team has won 10 of 11 games to move into the thick of the playoff hunt behind a potent, entertaining offense that revolves around Amar'e Stoudemire.

Yes, it is still early, only one of the Knicks' 10 victories in this current run has been against an opponent with a winning record (New Orleans), and New York ranks just 20th in defensive efficiency. But for an overhauled roster that lost five of its top eight players in minutes played from a year ago, the Knicks have rapidly coalesced into an offensive juggernaut. Stoudemire and another free-agent signee, point guard Raymond Felton, are running the pick-and-roll with a facility not far removed from the Steve Nash-Stoudemire duo in Phoenix last season. Over the last 10 games, Stoudemire is averaging an NBA-high 29.7 points on 58.7 percent shooting and Felton is averaging 9.7 assists.

Adding to the Knicks' bountiful offseason harvest is the play of second-round draft pick Landry Fields, the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for November and the NBA's leading rebounder among guards. Three-point specialist Danilo Gallinari and 17-point scorer Wilson Chandler, a recent addition to the first unit as the Knicks went small in center Ronny Turiaf's absence, complete a young but not callow starting lineup.

Time will tell if this is the high point in the Knicks' season or the start of something really good. But it is instructive to compare New York's two games against the Timberwolves. A month ago in Minnesota, the Wolves roared back from a 21-point second-half deficit, embarrassing Stoudemire and the Knicks with Kevin Love's 31-point, 31-rebound effort. On Monday in New York, Stoudemire scored 34 points (his fifth consecutive game with at least 30) and the Knicks rallied from an early 11-point deficit to beat Minnesota 121-114.

With the Raptors and Wizards up next, the Knicks -- who have climbed to No. 12 in this week's Power Rankings -- have a chance to go 15-9 before consecutive home games against the Nuggets, Celtics and Heat. Those three games begin a difficult stretch that will serve as a good measure of New York's progress.

(All stats and records are through Dec. 6.)

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