The Garden was electric. The Knicks' bench was up, cheering, laughing and high-fiving each other, and afterward, there were no long faces in the locker room, just smiles.
All it took was a historic 62-point game Friday night from Carmelo Anthony to bring the Knicks back to a happier time not too long ago, temporarily put aside their season-long problems and get the fans back on their side.
"There's no better feeling than that,'' Anthony said. "On your home court, your teammates standing up with you, the laughter, just to see everybody smiling once again -- that's what I was more excited to see. Guys on the bench smiling, high-fiving, having fun once again, that's the only thing I care about.
"The fans, I haven't heard them like that since last year. So it was good to get that feeling back here.''
The Knicks have hoped to recapture and rekindle what they had last season, but defensive breakdowns, mental mistakes, poor late-game execution, injuries and finger-pointing have led to their 16-27 record. They would have to go 38-1 to match last season's 54-28 mark.
That's all but impossible, but the Knicks hope Anthony's spectacular performance against the Bobcats, which set a record for the franchise and for the 46-year-old Madison Square Garden, could be the start of something.
"The most important thing was we won and the way we won as a team,'' Anthony said after the Knicks broke a five-game losing streak. "Hopefully we can build on that.''
The Knicks will have to do something Sunday against the Lakers that they haven't done all season -- win an afternoon game. They're 0-4 in the daytime -- all at home -- and have lost by a total of 103 points.
"Will I score 62? No,'' Anthony said. "But as a team, we've got to have that same mentality, that same focus that we had.''
It shouldn't be hard for Anthony and the Knicks to be motivated. One of Anthony's closest friends, Kobe Bryant, who owned the Garden mark of 61 points until Friday, will be in the building, although he remains sidelined with a knee injury. Former Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni also will return, and the Lakers are one of the teams that will have enough money to pursue Anthony in free agency this summer.
Anthony's future also was forgotten temporarily with his performance Friday. The Garden fans showed him they don't want him to leave. How the Knicks finish the season and what moves they can make before the Feb. 20 trade deadline likely will be determining factors.
Mike Woodson, who has come under fire plenty this season, deserves an assist for Anthony's career night. In the locker room before the game, a highlight film of the Knicks played with a tape of a speech from Muhammad Ali in the background. Anthony is a huge Ali fan, and hearing him added extra motivation to the already inspired star.
"I came in with a focus of winning the basketball game,'' Anthony said. "That was my only focus. I just wanted to start from the beginning, from the jump, and just let my teammates know that I don't like accepting losing and I'll do whatever I can to help us win.''
But as special as it was, it won't mean as much if it doesn't help turn around the Knicks' season.