Carmelo Anthony set the team single-game scoring record the last time the Knicks played Charlotte and reached another milestone against that franchise Sunday night, sealing the win with some big plays late.
But this time Anthony got much more help from his teammates.
The Knicks followed up Thursday night's emotional win in Cleveland with a 96-93 victory over the Hornets at Madison Square Garden, moving to a surprising 2-1.
Anthony scored 28 points, including the go-ahead basket with 1:23 left, and became the 40th player in NBA history to record 20,000 points. Last January, he lit up the then-Charlotte Bobcats for 62 points in a virtuoso performance.
Amar'e Stoudemire had a big game off the bench with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Iman Shumpert added 15 points, including a huge three-pointer with 2:06 left that tied the score at 93-93.
"You never know who is going to step up now," Anthony said. "Guys are just stepping up for the challenge and kind of taking the burden off [me]. It's early, but everybody is doing their job, playing their role, and as a result, we're winning these games."
The Knicks' defense was critical and impressive. They gave up only 13 points in the fourth quarter, none in the final 2:48 after Charlotte took a 93-90 lead. They forced the Hornets into three turnovers in the last 2:23, including a five-second violation with 36.6 seconds remaining.
"Their effort and trying to do what we ask them to do defensively are really high," Derek Fisher said.
Al Jefferson led Charlotte with 21 points. Gary Neal had 17 and Kemba Walker added 16.
With the Knicks ahead 95-93, Walker missed a 15-foot jumper with three seconds left and Anthony grabbed the rebound in a crowd. Fouled immediately, he displayed excitement, then made the second of two free throws with eight-tenths of a second left.
"It was just closure, man," Anthony said. "I looked at the stat line and I had just two rebounds. That rebound just sealed the game. So when I got that rebound, I wanted to just make sure it was mine and we won the game."
Anthony needed three points for 20,000 and surpassed it with a three-pointer 4:18 into the first quarter. The public address announcer informed the crowd of what he had done, and Anthony waved. If he stays healthy, he could break into the top 30 by the end of the season.
"It's a humbling experience for me," Anthony said. "I never thought I'd be here talking about me reaching that milestone. I'm definitely humbled by this experience and I got more to go."
The Knicks led by 15 in the second quarter, but it was a tight game in the second half. There were 22 lead changes after halftime and neither team led by more than three.
Charlotte went ahead 93-90 on Walker's reverse layup with 2:49 left, but Shumpert's three-pointer on an assist from Pablo Prigioni tied it. After Walker missed inside, Anthony drilled a 15-foot jumper over Marvin Williams to put the Knicks up for good at 95-93.
"In the past, I would say we probably would have lost a couple of these close games like this," Anthony said. "That just goes to show how far we're coming and where we got to go."