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Knicks rout Cavaliers for fourth win in row

Carmelo Anthony and Pablo Prigioni of the Knicks

Carmelo Anthony and Pablo Prigioni of the Knicks react after a play in the first half on Jan. 30, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

J.R. Smith drove baseline and threw down a highlight reel dunk in the first quarter. Later, he crossed up Tristan Thompson so badly on a crossover dribble that the Cavaliers forward ended up on his backside and Smith hit the shot.

Smith threw in a twisting back-to-the-basket dunk in transition for good measure.

All three plays got the Knicks' bench and many fans in the Garden out of their seats. A lot of what the Knicks did in Thursday night's 117-86 romp of the Cavaliers brought people to their feet.

"Just the stuff we've been through this season, even losing guys, these are the bright spots you want to have," Smith said. "You got your teammates on the bench going crazy, guys on the court are excited and love to play the game. There's nothing better than that."

It's showing lately.

The Knicks (19-27) won their fourth straight, and look far different than the team they were earlier this season when they started sluggishly and were down double digits quickly. Lately, the Knicks are applying the pressure early and trying to put teams away.

They were ahead by 29 in the first half and led by double-digits for the last 43:45. For the second straight game, Carmelo Anthony, who scored 18 of his 29 points in the first quarter, didn't play in the fourth. The Knicks have won these four games at home by a total of 93 points.

"It's starting to feel a lot better here on our homecourt," Anthony said. "So we're just trying to keep it going."

The Knicks close out their eight-game homestand tomorrow night against the two-time defending champion Heat. They beat Miami at the Garden this month during their season-best five-game winning streak.

Rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. matched Anthony last night, scoring a career-high 29 points. He scored 18 of his points in the fourth quarter. He shot 11-for-17 overall and hit six threes, tying Toney Douglas and Nate Robinson for the Knicks' rookie record.

Smith, who started with Iman Shumpert sitting out with a sprained right shoulder, finished with 19 points. He said he had to hold back his laughter after Thompson fell.

"I saw him fall," Smith said. "I was trying to focus on making the shot. I wanted to laugh, but I knew my teammates were going crazy behind me, so I had to make the shot to make sure everything fell into place."

Cavs All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, who usually has big games against the Knicks shot 10-for-25 and had a quiet 24 points.

The Knicks shot 56.6 percent overall and were 12-for-26 on three-pointers.

The Cavaliers (16-30) trimmed the Knicks' lead to 85-71 early in the fourth quarter. But the Knicks pulled away with a 19-5 run that made it 104-76. Hardaway Jr. knocked down three threes in the run. Anthony was up waving a towel during that. "To see him get in that groove it was fun to watch," Anthony said.

It hasn't been fun for the Cavaliers, and there are reports that Irving is unhappy in Cleveland and rumblings that general manager Chris Grant's job could be in trouble.

The Cavaliers didn't look as if they were motivated to turn things around. They looked inept and disinterested and the Knicks took them out of the game very quickly. The Knicks made nine of their first 11 shots and led 26-9 midway through the first quarter. Anthony and Smith scored 21 of those points.

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