Amar’e Stoudemire’s sprained ankle swelled at 30,000 feet Friday afternoon, forcing a sudden shift in the Knicks’ identity. Stoudemire, the high-flying rim bender, was out. Josh Harrellson, the stout rookie jump-shooter, was in. had just become more interesting.
It also proved eye-opening.
Harrellson produced a double-double in his first N.B.A. start, and Tyson Chandler became the Knicks’ surprise clutch scorer Saturday night as the Knicks rolled to a 114-92 victory over the .
Harrellson, a 6-foot 10-inch, 275-pound mass of muscle, finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds in 38 minutes. Chandler, a defensive specialist, had 22 points — his most as a Knick — and 7 rebounds. He scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to repel a late Sacramento charge, and the Knicks (2-2) reached the calendar’s end on a high note.
“We had it going tonight offensively,” said Carmelo Anthony, who slogged his way to 23 points. “Guys, they got their groove back.”
Landry Fields had a breakout game with 21 points. And Toney Douglas (17 points) settled into his playmaker role, dishing out 8 assists and connecting repeatedly with Chandler. The Knicks thus salvaged a three-game trip that started with losses to Golden State and to the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I thought Toney played like he did last year,” Coach said, praising the young backcourt of Douglas and Fields. “They will be products of, if the ball moves, they’ll play better.”
For the first time in three games, the ball did move, to the tune of 26 assists, with Anthony contributing five and Bill Walker six. It helped, too, that the Knicks played a Sacramento team that seems to lack an identity at either end of the court.
Marcus Thornton led the Kings with 14 points. Tyreke Evans, the former rookie of the year, had only 13 points. Jimmer Fredette, the rookie sensation who has energized Kings fans, had only 7 points, going 2 for 10 from the field.
The best rookie on the floor, though, was Harrellson, who was taken with the 45th pick last June — 35 picks after Fredette. He made his first attempt, a 3-pointer, then hit three more from the arc, finishing 5 for 11 from the field.
“It’s a big honor for me, and I hope I did well,” Harrellson said of replacing Stoudemire.
Aside from the big shots, Harrellson held DeMarcus Cousins, his former teammate at Kentucky, largely in check. Cousins had 9 points and 11 rebounds.
“I stopped one of the best big men in the league,” Harrellson said, adding later, “I’ve improved since I played with him, and he didn’t know really what I could do out there.”
Stoudemire called his injury “a typical ankle sprain” but his status for Monday’s home game against Toronto is uncertain.
D’Antoni had few options. He chose Harrellson for his beefy build and 3-point shot but added before tip-off: “It’s a little sight unseen. I don’t know yet.”
Three minutes after tip-off, Chandler was on the bench with two fouls, and the Knicks’ vaunted frontcourt was reduced to Anthony and two second-round picks, Harrellson and Jerome Jordan. Against any other team, that might have been a reason to shudder.
Despite the patchwork lineup, the Knicks promptly went on a 15-0 run — including three 3-pointers from Douglas — to take an early 20-10 lead. The Knicks pushed the lead to 22 points without a single basket from Anthony, who did not convert until the 6-minute-11-second mark of the second quarter.
The Kings found their stride around that time, with Jason Thompson igniting a surge that cut the deficit to 12 points. Anthony kept the Knicks in control, scoring 12 points in the period as the Knicks took a 56-42 lead into halftime.
When the Kings pulled to 14 behind in the fourth, Chandler responded with an 8-point burst in 71 seconds, twice converting off feeds from Douglas and once from Walker.
“I’m really trying to get in rhythm with my guards, trying to get my guards used to playing with me,” said Chandler, who had his highest point total since Feb. 26, when he was with Dallas.
The Knicks are trying to increase Chandler’s offensive role to take some pressure off Stoudemire and Anthony and to open the floor.
“If we can get ever get them one on one” with defenders, Chandler said, “because we play basketball like we did tonight, it’s a nightmare for teams.”
Iman Shumpert (knee) and Jared Jeffries (calf) are making steady progress and will be re-evaluated Monday. Jeffries is walking without pain and could resume running if doctors clear him. It is possible he could be playing by the end of the week. Shumpert said he was “ahead of schedule” and was cleared to shoot jumpers before the game while wearing a knee brace. He could be a week or two away from returning. “Man, I’m very optimistic,” he said.