The eyes of the entire NBA were on the Knicks and Bobcats last night.
With the college football national championship game taking place, Madison Square Garden was the site of the only NBA game of the night. Hoops junkies could get their fix only by watching the seventh- and 10th-ranked teams in the Eastern Conference.
Larry Brown's Bobcats were the higher-ranked team going into the night. But the Knicks, behind an offensive spark from Nate Robinson and clutch three-pointers by Chris Duhon and Danilo Gallinari, overcame a 10-point third-quarter deficit for a 97-93 victory.
"It was a big win," said Wilson Chandler, who led all scorers with 27 points. "We want to make the playoffs and we should make the playoffs."
Robinson, in his third game back from his 14-game stint in coach Mike D'Antoni's doghouse, scored 10 points, nine in the second half when the Knicks needed a lift.
"He can give us that little spark when we get dead in the water a little bit," D'Antoni said. "I told him that he just needs to be himself . . . to be Nate Robinson and go. And he did. Each guy contributed in a way that helped us to win."
The Knicks (15-20), who have won three in a row and four of five, moved to within a half-game of the eighth spot in the East. The Bobcats (15-19) had won three in a row, including road wins at Miami and Cleveland. The teams finished their season series at 2-2.
The back-and-forth game wasn't decided until the final two minutes. The Bobcats went five minutes of the fourth quarter without scoring as the Knicks went up by six, but Stephen Jackson (26 points) and Raymond Felton hit back-to-back three-pointers to tie the score at 84 with 2:20 left.
Duhon answered with a three-pointer 18 seconds later to put the Knicks back on top. Jackson hit a jumper with 1:42 left that was ruled a two-pointer and remained as such after a lengthy replay review of where his toe was as he shot.
Gallinari (17 points, 5-for-11 on three-pointers) followed with a three and then another - this one from about five feet behind the three-point line - and the Knicks led by seven at 93-86.
"He gets better and better," Brown said. "That's why he got drafted sixth, if I remember."
Charlotte closed to within 95-93 after Robinson committed his seventh turnover with a pass that was intercepted and Flip Murray hit a three-pointer. But Chandler, who also had seven rebounds and six assists, hit a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds left to ice it.
The Bobcats went up by 10 late in the third quarter, but the Knicks scored the last seven points to move within 71-68. The Knicks had been 4-16 when trailing after three. The run grew to 15-0 into the fourth quarter as the Knicks took a 76-71 lead. Robinson scored eight of the points, igniting the Garden crowd.
Robinson scored 41 points Friday in Atlanta but only six Monday. The Knicks won both games. He had only one point in the first half last night before getting his groove back late in the third quarter.
Eddy Curry? Larry Hughes? Not so much. Neither veteran played.