Amare Stoudemire received a rousing ovation before the game and the proceeded to quiet the fans with 19 of his 23 points in the first half as the New York Knicks kicked off a tough stretch with a 121-96 thumping over the Phoenix Suns on Friday.
Raymond Felton recorded a triple-double for the Knicks with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists and tied a season high with five 3-pointers.
Stoudemire spent the first eight seasons of his career in Phoenix after being selected by the organization as the ninth overall pick in 2002. He averaged 21.4 points and 8.9 rebounds during his tenure, earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2002-03 and a first-team All-NBA selection in 2007, but he could only get to the Western Conference finals twice – losing both.
The 6-9 power forward’s inside presence against much-smaller defenders opened up the perimeter shooters, as the Knicks drained 17 of 31 from the arc.
The Knicks took control at the tip, led 55-45 at the half and scored 14 straight early in the third to build a 77-54 edge. Shawne Williams had a three-point play and a pair of 3-pointers during the spurt and Stoudemire capped it with a layup.
Vince Carter scored 19 points and Steve Nash, who played pick-and-roll basketball with Stoudemire for years, had 14 and nine assists for the sinking Suns, who have lost seven of eight, including games to bottom feeders Philadelphia, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Clippers.