The New York Knicks beat the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night on the dribble, on defense and in those little physical battles in the paint.
Amare Stoudemire posted 23 points and Wilson Chandler had 20 to lead the Knicks to a 102-90 win over Atlanta at Madison Square Garden.
Marvin Williams had 17 points and Mike Bibby added 15 on five 3-pointers for Atlanta (34-21), which enters the All-Star Break one game behind the Orlando Magic (36-21) for second place in the Southeast Division.
"We have a recipe when we play on the road, I thought the warning signs were there, especially defensively," Hawks coach Larry Drew told reporters afterward. "We had multiple defensive breakdowns and on the offensive side we played it safe."
This one was as physical as advertised as the two teams almost came to blows in the final period. Stoudemire and Horford engaged in a war of words in the New York tabloids prior to this one, with Stoudemire spouting off that Horford "doesn't want to see him," while Horford retorted that there "ain't no one afraid of (Stoudemire)."
With the game out of hand late in the fourth, Stoudemire was all over Horford on a possession, altered his shot and made a demonstrative celebratory motion toward the fans. On Atlanta's next time down the floor, Horford posted a layup and put a finger to his mouth to simulate a shooshing sound to the New York crowd.
After grabbing the rebound on the other side of the floor, the Atlanta center was mugged by Raymond Felton and the Knicks started exchanging words with Horford, who was pulled away before the situation escalated.
If the Hawks only came out with the same defensive intensity this may have actually been a ball game.
New York took it to Atlanta in the first quarter, shooting 58-percent in the first as they built a 26-19 lead. Stoudemire had six in a frame where the Hawks connected on just 8-of-24 from the field.
Atlanta never came back from that deficit, electing for the most part to shoot jumpers instead of penetrating the paint. The result was all too predictable.
"I thought we settled," Drew said. "And that's just not a good sign."
Josh Smith had 14 points and Horford added 12 and 11 rebounds for the Hawks, who continue their seven-game road trip next Tuesday in Los Angeles.