New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni likes the direction his offense is heading. Even if Amare Stoudemire isn't on the court demanding defensive attention.
The Knicks hope to have Stoudemire back as they try to build on their best offensive performance of the season Monday night against the struggling Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden.
Stoudemire, who is averaging 17.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in three games, is listed as day-to-day with a sprained left ankle. The six-time All-Star didn't dress Saturday against Sacramento, but that didn't seem to have much of an effect on New York's offense.
All five starters had 14 points or more for the Knicks (2-2) in an easy 114-92 win. Carmelo Anthony led the way with 23 points, while Stoudemire's replacement, rookie Josh Harrellson, finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds for New York, which had averaged 80.0 points on 35.8 percent shooting in losing its previous two games.
"Our team is starting to pick up things in the offense that if we continue to do it, we can be successful,'' D'Antoni said. "When you have a Carmelo with an Amare, it tends to open the floor even more. When the ball moves, our younger guys can get more involved.''
The Knicks finished with season highs of 26 assists and 46 points in the paint.
"When the ball is moving like that, you can see how successful we can be offensively,'' Landry Fields said. "It's a very nice win. Hopefully it brings us momentum going into our next game.''
New York had no trouble offensively against Toronto last season, averaging 114.5 points in sweeping the four-game series. Stoudemire averaged 26.8 points and 11.5 boards against the Raptors in 2010-11, while Anthony had 23 points and nine rebounds in the lone game he played in last season's series, a 131-118 win at MSG on April 5.
The Raptors (1-3) were 26th in scoring defense last season (105.4), and although they've been more sound defensively in 2011-12, yielding an average of 96.8 points, it hasn't translated to many wins.
Toronto's defense played well through three quarters Sunday in Orlando but didn't get many stops down the stretch. The Raptors led by as many as 13 in the fourth, but the Magic shot 70.6 percent (12 for 17) in the final period to rally for a 102-96 win. It was the second consecutive second-half collapse by Toronto, which squandered a seven-point, third-quarter lead in Friday's 99-86 loss to Dallas.
"I don't really have an explanation as to why this game got away,'' said Jose Calderon, who had 18 points and 13 assists. "It's tough. It's kind of like the same thing that happened with Dallas. They're two veteran teams. They know how to play in those moments. We've got to learn from that.''
Andrea Bargnani paced the Raptors with 28 points Sunday, but only scored three in the fourth quarter. The 7-foot Italian, who is averaging 26.3 points on 53.6 percent shooting in his last three games, had a career-high 41 points in a 113-110 loss at MSG last December.