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Carmelo Anthony scores 26 as Knicks win third straight game

Knicks' Carmelo Anthony drives past Cavaliers' Luol Deng

Knicks' Carmelo Anthony drives past Cavaliers' Luol Deng during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, March 8, 2014, in Cleveland. Credit: AP / Tony Dejak

CLEVELAND -- The Knicks continue to keep hope alive.

As rumors swirl that Phil Jackson could join the front office to help rebuild the team, the current edition is trying to make an improbable run to a playoff berth.

The Knicks didn't wilt after blowing a 15-point lead and earned their third straight win Saturday night, beating the Cavaliers, 107-97, at Quicken Loans Arena in a game they had to have.

"You could see something different over the last couple of games," Carmelo Anthony said after scoring 26 points. "It seems like everybody has a sense of urgency right now, playing very desperate at this point."

Said Amar'e Stoudemire, "Better late than never.''

The Knicks moved into a tie for 10th with Cleveland at 24-40 and are within one game of ninth-place Detroit (24-38) and 31/2 games of eighth-place Atlanta (26-35). The Hawks, who have lost 14 of their last 15, were beaten by the Clippers, 109-108, Saturday night in Los Angeles.

Anthony, still slowed by an illness, missed his first six shots but made 10 of his last 17. Stoudemire, who started for the fourth straight game, had 17 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. J.R. Smith added 17 points and Tyson Chandler had 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Kyrie Irving had 30 points, eight assists and eight rebounds to lead Cleveland. Spencer Hawes added 21 points.

The Knicks went ahead 58-43 with 1:16 left in the second quarter but fell behind 80-77 early in the fourth. They responded with a 14-1 run, taking a 91-81 lead on Anthony's three-pointer with 7:38 left. Pablo Prigioni (11 points) sank two three-pointers in that surge.

After the Cavs moved within 97-90, the Knicks scored six straight points to go up 13 with 1:37 left.

"I think the mental approach is a little bit different now," coach Mike Woodson said. "It's been a tough season for all of us. We're still trying to play for something -- the eight spot -- and they're playing like it."

During an extended halftime, Zydrunas Ilgauskas' number was retired in a 30-minute ceremony attended by LeBron James. The former Cavalier chartered a plane from Chicago -- where the Heat will play Sunday afternoon -- to honor his old teammate.

It's another example of the thawing between the organization and James in the four years since he bolted for Miami. The date of Ilgauskas' ceremony was selected after the Cavaliers consulted with James so he could be here.The Cavaliers plan to pursue James as a free agent this summer, but most NBA people expect him to re-sign with the Heat.

The Knicks wish they had Miami's troubles. They face an uphill climb and have to capitalize on this part of their schedule, in which they will face mostly teams with below-.500 records. They have three games this week against teams with losing records and seven of eight overall.

After that, nine of the Knicks' remaining 10 games are against teams at .500 or better.

"Right now," Anthony said, "it's just a matter of us playing with that desperation, trying to make something happen coming down the stretch."

Notes & quotes: The 10-day contracts of Earl Clark and Shannon Brown expire Sunday. The Knicks likely will sign both to second 10-day deals, but it might not happen until Monday so they don't waste a day . . . The April 13 Knicks-Bulls game has been changed from 1 p.m. on ABC to 7:30 p.m. on MSG . . . A news conference is scheduled for Monday to announce that the Knicks will own and operate a Westchester-based expansion D-League franchise.

New York Sports