TORONTO — After two rim-rattling dunks in Philadelphia Wednesday night, Amar’e Stoudemire looked up at the crowd filled with Knicks fans, howled, and flexed his muscles.
Mike D’Antoni is gone, but Stoudemire, his chief supporter, is back. And Stoudemire vowed he will stay this good.
“I felt great,’’ said Stoudemire. “It’s not going to change. It’s a matter of getting back to my rhythm. This is my game, who I am — an aggressive, explosive player. Always have been. It’s not going to change.’’
During this glorious 5-0 stretch under the helm of interim coach Mike Woodson that has made the Knicks Atlantic Division-title contenders again, Stoudemire has flourished while Carmelo Anthony’s game — at least shooting-wise — has declined.
There have been false alarms before, but Stoudemire is averaging a team-leading 16.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and shooting 57.4 percent during the five-game Woodsanity surge. Just like old times — or at least just like last season.
With the raging-hot Knicks (23-24) facing the Raptors at Air Canada Centre tonight with a chance to get to .500, Stoudemire’s defense has become more ferocious and timely. His block from behind on Elton Brand late in the fourth quarter was arguably the game’s biggest momentum play of the magical win that has them three games out of the division lead.
Asked about his animation in Philadelphia, Stoudemire said: “It was a very, very important game. From a leadership standpoint, I wanted to make sure I was very vocal, leading by example, knowing the magnitude of this game. So I was able to get my message out there.’’
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