PHOENIX -- Carmelo Anthony was on the bench, sidelined by a hyperextended left knee, which meant one thing to J.R. Smith when the Knicks forced a turnover in a tie game with one second remaining.
"Just give me the ball, give me the ball,'' he recalled himself saying. "I was so hyped and ready for it. It's something I didn't do for a while because Melo is our closer, without a doubt.''
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Smith was more than up to the task of substitute finisher Wednesday night, taking an inbounds pass from Jason Kidd and hitting an off-balance shot from the corner at the buzzer with the Suns' P.J. Tucker flashing by his face.
The Knicks' 99-97 victory at U.S. Airways Center improved their record to 21-8 with one game left on their road swing, Friday night against the lowly Kings.
It was an uplifting finish to a night of mixed emotions, not only because of Anthony's injury but also an apparently more serious one to point guard Raymond Felton.
An X-ray at halftime revealed a fractured right pinkie, which might require surgery that would sideline him for a month or more. Both Felton and Anthony were injured during Tuesday's loss to the Lakers.
Anthony was hurt when teammate Marcus Camby fell on his leg. Woodson said Anthony determined upon waking up yesterday that he could not play. He described the star forward's status as "day-to-day."
Anthony did not discuss the injury with reporters; on Tuesday he had expressed confidence he would not miss any games.
So it was left primarily to Smith (27 points, five assists, five steals), Kidd (23 points, eight assists, six rebounds) and Tyson Chandler (14 points, 12 rebounds) to carry the Knicks, with a timely contribution off the bench from Chris Copeland, who had 10 of his 14 points in the second quarter.
But it was Smith who provided the dramatics, first hitting an 18-foot fadeaway with 10.6 seconds left to tie the score at 97 then -- after Chandler forced that Suns turnover, with Brooklyn native Sebastian Telfair stepping out of bounds -- made the game-winner.
"I was walking around the court saying, 'I'm going to make it, I'm going to make it,' " said Smith, who also hit a last-second winner against the Bobcats on Dec. 5. "I was trying to get my form ready before I thought about taking it. I was going through my mechanics in my head to get my shoulders square and let it fly.''
Smith said he saw the rim only for a split second, then "just let it go."
Did he see it go in? "I saw it at the end. As [Tucker] went by the ball hit the rim and went in. After that it was indescribable.''
Kidd said the plan was to get to the ball Smith or to Chandler on a lob. "I knew Tyson wasn't going to be open and it was going to J.R. the whole time,'' Kidd said. "It was just a matter of was he going to be able to catch it clean and come up with a good shot. He had the hardest thing. Making the pass is the easiest. That's the beauty of this team. You have guys who accept the challenge. J.R. was up to it tonight. He's been up for it all season.''
Jared Dudley led the Suns (11-18) with a career-high 36 points. Their leading scorer, Goran Dragic, left for good after he crashed to the floor on what was ruled a flagrant foul by Smith late in the first half.
What did Woodson think of Smith's night at the office? Said the coach: "He was incredible.''