SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Knicks shook off one of their worst performances in franchise history, and held off a late surge to get a much needed win.
Less than 24 hours after losing by 31 to the Lakers, and giving up a franchise-record 51 points in the third quarter, the Knicks came out ready to play Wednesday night and finished off the Sacramento Kings, 107-99, at Sleep Train Arena.
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The Knicks' let a 24-point third-quarter cushion dwindle to two in the fourth. But they never relinquished the lead, and remarkably remain alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Knicks (30-42) are just two games behind eighth-place Atlanta with 10 to play.
"We can't underestimate any one body," Carmelo Anthony said. "We got to come out and play. With what we're trying to accomplish and what we're trying to do there's no way we can get there by playing the way we did [Tuesday]."
Anthony had a huge night, scoring 36 points. He twisted his right ankle late in the game, but said he would be ready to play Friday when this five-game trip continues in Phoenix.
J.R. Smith finished with 29 points and shot 9-for-12 from three-point range. He buried some big ones in the fourth after Sacramento made it a game.
"That was big time the way he stepped up and knocked down shots," Anthony said.
The Knicks' playoff chances appeared to be desperate coming into this game, especially after their last two defeats. But the Hawks (31-39), who have dropped four straight, are helping keep the Knicks (30-42) in the hunt.
The Knicks jumped out right away on the Kings and were up 15 at the half. Sacramento has just one healthy point guard on their roster -- Ray McCallum -- and he shot 3-for-14. Small forward Rudy Gay had to handle some of the point guard duties, and he had an off night, going 4-for-10 with 14 points.
But DeMarcus Cousins gave the Knicks fits. He led the Kings (25-46) with 32 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists.
In the fourth, the Kings got within 91-87 with 7:01 left. On the ensuing trip, Smith buried a three-pointer, and the Knicks went up 96-87 after an Anthony jumper with 6:03 left.
A Cousins' three-point play made it 96-94. But Smith delivered again, drilling a three with 4:10 left to put the Knicks up five. It stayed that way until Anthony drove and fed Amar'e Stoudemire for a dunk that made it 101-94 with 2:49 to go.
Following two McCallum free throws with 1:56 left, Anthony knocked down a jumper with 1:36 remaining to give the Knicks a 103-96 cushion.
"We didn't get rattled by their runs," Tyson Chandler said. "We learned our lesson from [Tuesday] night. We kept our composure."
The third quarter went much differently for the Knicks. They didn't give up a field goal to the Kings until there was 5:06 remaining in the quarter.
The Knicks went up 24 before Sacramento chipped away and cut it to 83-72 in the closing seconds. But Smith buried a three-pointer with 1.7 seconds left to put the Knicks up by 14 heading to the fourth.
Little defense was played by either team in the first half. But the Knicks were a little better on both ends and seemed to be in control.
"It's all about winning," Mike Woodson said. "I don't care how you do it. It's all about winning at this point."
Time is running out on Woodson and on the Knicks' season. Other common sentiments in the locker room after the loss was that the Knicks had no other choice but to bounce back and that they needed to display more pride.
"This right here shows your true colors, shows your character, how you are as a player and person," J.R. Smith said. "You want to fold and go home, that's what people are going to see. This shows who you really are. It [stinks] that it has to come down to this but it always does."