The Knicks played the first half of last night's game as if it was November all over again. It proved to be just enough to beat the Grizzlies.
Great ball movement, strong defense and a barrage of three-pointers gave the Knicks a 30-point lead that they nearly squandered. The Grizzlies got within four in the final minute, but the Knicks held them off for their sixth straight win, 108-101, at the Garden.
Raymond Felton came up with a huge offensive rebound and J.R. Smith capped off a brilliant 35-point night with two big free throws to give the Knicks a seven-point cushion with 26.2 seconds left. "The beauty about tonight is our guys didn't crack," Mike Woodson said. "They made plays when it counted and we were able to secure the win. That's what I look at."
The Knicks (44-26) have followed a four-game losing streak with a season-high matching six straight wins. They opened up 6-0 before losing in Memphis. With the Heat's loss to the Bulls, the Knicks now own the longest current winning streak in the NBA.
It was an impressive win completing a back-to-back that started in Boston, and an important victory. The Knicks, who were without Tyson Chandler (bulging neck disc) again, have faltered against the better teams. This was their first win over a team with a .600 or better winning percentage since downing the Spurs on Jan. 3.
Memphis (47-24) owns the NBA's sixth-best record. The Knicks are seventh.
"I'm just glad we pulled this one out and we're keeping it going," Carmelo Anthony said.
The Knicks appeared to be headed for a laugher. They hit 11 of 21 from three in the first half and were up 71-41 in the first minute of the third quarter. "We spread the floor," Smith said. "We got stops, got on a run, kept the whistles from blowing. We like playing fast at home. It's easy to play here when we've got a big home advantage. Everybody likes New York, especially Western Conference teams, they only come here but once, so that helps us out."
Smith surpassed 30 points for the second straight night. He shot 10 of 18 and finished one-point shy of matching his season-high.
"He's dialed in right now," said Anthony, who scored 22 points. "We're just hoping he keeps it dialed in right now because the way he's going right now he's putting the team over the top."
Iman Shumpert got the Knicks off to a great start, scoring 13 of the Knicks' first 15 points. He finished with 16. It was just the fourth time Shumpert hit double figures in the 33 games he's played since returning from a torn ACL.
After the Grizzlies cut it to 94-84, Anthony fed Kenyon Martin for a dunk and hit back-to-back pull-up jumpers that put the Knicks up 100-86 with 3:38 left.
But the Grizzlies scored nine straight points to get within 100-95 with 1:38 left. On the next trip, Jason Kidd buried a corner three to make it 103-95. He was fouled by Bayless, but Kidd missed the foul shot.
Four Grizzlies' free throws made it 103-99 with 33.3 seconds left. Felton was fouled and made the first free throw, missed the second, but got the rebound. It led to Smith's two free throws that made it 106-99.
"[This] was one of them games that we came out extremely focused," Anthony said.