Thank you J.R. Smith!
Smith’s play for the majority of the season has left a lot to be desired, but his knack for hitting big shots came through when the New York Knicks (30-42) needed it the most.
New York blew a 24-point lead to the Sacramento Kings (25-46), and every time the Kings made a run in the 4th, Smith would hit a clutch three. He made three of his nine threes in the 4th, and helped lead New York to a 107-99 win over Sacramento.
With Atlanta’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, this win brings the Knicks within two games. Atlanta has been struggling as of late, losing their last four games. If the Knicks can continue to find ways to win games, they have a legitimate shot at pipping Atlanta for the 8th spot.
Led by Smith’s 14 points, after one, the Knicks led 31-28. In the 2nd quarter, the Knicks went on a 16-4 run to increase their lead to 14, 50-36. At halftime, the Knicks were dominating 63-48.
The difference in the 1st half was 3-point shooting. The Knicks outscored the Kings by 12 points from 3-point range -- the Knicks shot 7-12 while the Kings only managed to shoot 3-9 from three.
The Knicks began the 3rd quarter on a 11-2 run -- led by three made 3-pointers from Carmelo Anthony -- to increase the Knicks lead to 74-50. The game seemed to be fading away from the Kings, but DeMarcus Cousins and Ben McLemore thought otherwise.
Cousins scored seven straight points, and Ben McLemore capped off the 10-0 run with a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 14. McLemore hit another three later in the quarter to cut the lead to 11, but Smith responded with a three of his own to push the lead back to 14 before the end of the quarter.
Sacramento came out firing on all cylinders in the 4th with a 8-0 run -- McLemore made a 3-pointer and a midrange jumper, and Rudy Gay had a huge dunk after a steal. The lead was cut to six, but following a timeout by New York, Smith made a huge 3-pointer to stifle Sacramento’s run.
With 7:05 to go, Gay made a driving lay up to cut the lead to four; then Smith responded with another 3-pointer to push the advantage back up to seven.
About three minutes later, Cousins scored five straight points to cut the Knicks lead to two, but Smith made sure the Kings wouldn’t get any closer with another clutch 3-pointer.
Afterwards, it was the Carmelo Anthony show. Anthony drew a double-team and found Amar’e Stoudemire wide open on the baseline for a dunk, then he hit a midrange jumper over Gay. Later, he made a pair of free throws to give the Knicks a late eight-point lead.
Tim Hardaway Jr. made a midrange jumper with 27.5 seconds to go to seal the game for the Knicks.
Key Stats: Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 36 points and 5 rebounds, but he also had 5 turnovers. J.R. Smith scored 29 points, and shot 9-12 from 3-point range. Amar’e Stoudemire had 12 points and 6 rebounds. Tyson Chandler had 10 points and 8 rebounds. Raymond Felton finished with 5 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds, and most importantly, 0 turnovers.
DeMarcus Cousins had a huge game -- 32 points, 15 rebounds, and a career-high 8 assists. Ben McLemore finished with 16 points. Travis Outlaw scored 15 points off the bench. Rudy Gay finished with 14 points. Ray McCallum had 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Key Notes: Andrea Bargnani and Kenyon Martin remain out due to injury. Isaiah Thomas, Carl Landry, and Jason Terry were inactive for the Kings. J.R. Smith’s 9 3-pointers ties a Knicks franchise record for most threes made in a game -- tied with Latrell Sprewell, John Starks, Toney Douglas, and Carmelo Anthony.