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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Amare Stoudemire had 21 points and nine rebounds to lead the New York Knicks to their fifth straight victory, 82-79 over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.
Jeremy Lin scored 18 points and Carmelo Anthony had 10 to help the Knicks pull within three games of the Atlantic Division leaders.
Elton Brand had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Sixers. Jrue Holiday scored 16.
The game ended with thousands of New York fans chanting, “Let’s go Knicks!” They had reason to celebrate after Stoudemire hit a pair of big buckets down the stretch to clinch the win.
Each team was backed by a heavyweight A-list supporter: Co-owner Will Smith rooted on the Sixers and Spike Lee sat adjacent to the Knicks bench.
This could be a crushing week for the Sixers with Boston set to visit on Friday. The Celtics are only a game back for the division lead and an automatic top-four seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Sixers shook off a miserable start and a double-digit hole to make a run at the Knicks in the fourth. Lou Williams, perhaps the NBA’s best sixth man, nailed a 3 that tied the game at 63-all.
Stoudemire, though, returned the favor with a monster dunk and a loud roar that was gleefully met with cheers by all the Knicks fans. Stoudemire hit a pull-up jumper next time down and the Knicks led by four.
Lin followed with a runner and Lee, wearing a No. 17 jersey, leapt from his seat and applauded as the Knicks ran his way for a timeout.
Lin delivered from the free throw line, sinking two for an eight-point lead, then feeding Anthony for a 16-footer that gave the Knicks the breathing room they needed. Lin was 10 for 10 from the line.
The Sixers kept coming, and nearly turned the game around in the final 2 minutes. Trailing by three, Brand blocked Lin’s shot that led to a fast-break attempt for Andre Iguodala. Iguodala missed the layup, and the empty possession would finish off the Sixers.
For good measure, Iguodala shot an airball in the final minute.
Meanwhile, the orange and blue took over, and chanted for the Knicks, completing a double-dose of defeat for Philadelphia.
The Sixers never led and trailed by as many as 12 points when they finally found a groove in the third. Thaddeus Young’s dunk pulled them within two and Iguodala buried a 3-pointer from the corner — only his third basket — for a 49-48 lead.
Philadelphia was invaded by a fleet of Knicks fans that gave this one a postseason feel — for Madison Square Garden.
But the Sixers fans came alive along with their team and went wild when, after the Sixers blew the lead, Williams nailed a 3 to pull them to 59-58 to end the quarter.
Only 10 days earlier, the Sixers handed the Knicks their fifth straight loss, 106-94. Stoudemire sat alongside Anthony for the entire fourth quarter.
Both were needed this time around, especially with Lin having a miserable first three quarters. He missed 10 of his first 11 shots and had only two assists — one on a long pass to a streaking Anthony for a thunderous dunk.
Lin wasn’t the only scorer who couldn’t buy a bucket. Iguodala, who averages 12.2 points, didn’t score his first field goal until there was 45 seconds left in the first half. He scored 13 points.
Linsanity has turned into Winsanity as the Knicks are unbeaten since Mike D’Antoni stepped down exactly a week earlier.
Of course, Linsanity is so 15 minutes ago now that Tebowmania headlines New York.
Smith and Lee exchanged some laughs, and Smith pointed to his black 76ers cap when he was shown on the big screen in front of 20,470 fans.
The Sixers missed their first 14 shots — Spencer Hawes even fired an airball on the 10th attempt — and committed five turnovers in the first quarter.
The only part more amazing than their futility from the court was that they only trailed by eight points.
Notes: Knicks G Baron Davis returned after sitting out two games with a strained right hamstring. “I want to make myself available,” he said. … Flyers Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds sat courtside. Hartnell tossed shirts into the crowd. … The teams play each other two more times. … The Sixers are 6-12 after a 20-9 start.
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