Knicks' defense stops Bulls

NEW YORK — The New York Knicks slipped on green uniforms and looked like an entirely different team.

A little like the one that used to protect the paint at Madison Square Garden.

Amare Stoudemire and Raymond Felton each scored 20 points, and the Knicks limited the Chicago Bulls to two baskets in the first 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, pulling away for a 103-95 victory Saturday.

Swatting shots and picking off passes with a dominant defense that would have made the 1990s Knicks proud, New York didn't allow a field goal for more than 8 minutes after the game was tied early in the final period.

"We did a beautiful job defensively," Stoudemire said. "They're a really good defensive team, but for us, we've been talking about defense now for the past — actually the whole year — but more so the past week about communicating, helping the helper, so it's really showing."

Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari added 15 apiece for the Knicks, the NBA's highest-scoring team but 28th in defense. Yet it's been hard to tell lately they struggle on that end, as they held Oklahoma City to 98 points on Wednesday and followed by blocking 10 shots and coming up with 12 steals in this one.

Stoudemire anchored the defensive effort, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking six shots. Rookie Landry Fields finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Knicks, who improved to 21-25 on Christmas. Felton had 12 assists and Chandler also grabbed 10 boards.

Wearing Christmas colors, the Knicks beat Chicago for the second time this season, winning the series for the first time since 2000-01.

"It's real important because we're chasing them. Hopefully we can do that," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "One thing is you know we play them three games. We won two so we get the tiebreaker, so now that helps. It's the little things. A lo t of basketball to be played but you've got to beat these teams, at home especially."

Carlos Boozer had 26 points and 19 rebounds for the Bulls, who lost for just the second time in 11 games.

The Bulls flopped in their first Christmas game since 1997, committing 22 turnovers that led to 23 points. They fell to 9-6 on the holiday, including 2-3 against the Knicks.

"To their credit, I thought they played good defense," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I think we have to execute when we are being doubled-teamed. We've got to make plays. We didn't do that tonight."

Derrick Rose had 25 points, eight assists and seven rebounds for the Bulls, but also committed seven turnovers. He was stopped a couple of times by Stoudemire, nodding his head in agreement after his shot was blocked in the first half, and then getting hit on it after a drive in the second, when the two exchanged words.

"That's basketball. He was trying to stop me going to the hole. It's just a basketball play," Rose said. "It's going to get physical, especially if someone keeps driving. That's what he's supposed to do."

Thunder 114, Nuggets 106

At Oklahoma City, NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant had a season-high 44 points — 21 in the third quarter — and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Denver Nuggets 114-106 on Saturday night.

James Harden added 21 points, and Russell Westbrook added 19 for the Thunder in the first Christmas game in the franchise's three-season tenure in Oklahoma City.

Durant entered the game with a 27.5-point scoring average and a season high of 34, but he blew past the latter by the five-minute mark of the third quarter en route to his first 40-point game of the season — after having eight of them last season. He was 14 of 20 from the field.

Denver played for the second straight game without star Carmelo Anthony following his sister's death Wednesday. Chauncey Billups led the Nuggets with 30 points, and Nene had 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Oklahoma City improved to 21-10 and is 9-1 after a loss. The Thunder had lost two of their last three.

Denver led by 10 points in the first quarter. Behind Durant and Harden, the Thunder rallied to go up 54-51 late in the first half before the Nuggets closed on a 7-2 run to take a 58-56 halftime lead.

Denver led 62-56 early in the third quarter before Durant took over offensively, making a pair of 3-pointers and three free throws after being fouled on another attempt, all in a 1:40 span. Another 3-pointer pulled the Thunder even at 76, then Durant assisted on Westbrook's layup to put Oklahoma City ahead.

Westbrook, who was fouled on the play, gave a fist pump to rev up the crowd.

Al Harrington put Denver back up 85-84 with a 3-pointer, but Durant — wearing special bright yellow shoes, as did all his teammates — answered with a basket and Harden's two free throws gave the Thunder an 88-85 lead going into the fourth quarter.

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