Although the Knicks (44-26) entered the contest just one win shy of matching a season-best six-game winning streak, it was the Grizzlies (47-24) that appeared to have momentum on their side.
Memphis big man Marc Gasol had aggravated an abdominal tear on Friday night and was reportedly out indefinitely (via ESPN.com). That indefinite period was quickly defined as just two games, though, when he returned to the team's starting lineup for this game.
But any momentum spurred by his unexpected appearance was quickly dashed by a Knicks team that established itself as the aggressor early in the game. New York worked its prolific offensive attack from the inside out as J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony relentlessly drove to the basket.
By the time the Grizzlies adjusted defensively, New York's perimeter shooters had kicked it into high gear. The Knicks hit nine of their first 13 three-point attempts while stretching a 12-point first-quarter edge into a 28-point lead by halftime.
The Knicks set a season high for first-half points with 69, just 21 fewer than Grizzlies opponents have averaged per game on the year.
But the Grizzlies started showing signs of life in the third quarter.
In a three-minute stretch early in the period, Memphis worked its way into 11 free-throw attempts, connecting on nine of them. The Grizzlies also picked up their intensity on the defensive end and trimmed the Knicks' lead to 16 by the end of the quarter.
Memphis cut the lead to just four with 33 seconds left in regulation, but New York made just enough plays down the stretch to salvage a win.