NEW YORK — The Knicks came into last night's matchup at the Garden determined to beat their Hudson River rivals the New Jersey Nets and to extend their current winning streak to two games.
A victory not only earned the Knicks a notch over the Nets (if you’re counting) in which team made the better deal before the February trading deadline, but also keeps the Knicks in the hunt for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
The sixth seed is currently occupied by the 39-36 Philadelphia 76ers and the Knicks trail them by two games (including last night’s win against the Nets) with the record of 37-38.
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with a game-high 39 points, along with 10 rebounds and five assists. Chauncey Billups had 33 to go along with his six rebounds and five assists. Amar’e Stoudemire added 23 points during his foul-plagued 31 minutes of game time.
Anthony Morrow was the Nets' leading scorer with 30 while connecting on 10-of-15 shots from the field and 4-of-5 from behind the three-point line. Brook Lopez added 26 points, to go along with his nine rebounds. Deron Williams, after a six-game absence, scored 22 points and dished out eight assists. And Kris Humphries notched another double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
The Nets controlled the game in the first half. At one point, the Nets had a 16-point lead over the Knicks.
“This was a big game for us. We've got a lot to lose, they don't. They just looked like they wanted it more than we did and we talked about that,” Billups said to AP. “We came out immediately in the second half and just kind of turned the tide, momentum kind of went our way.”
The first half ended with New Jersey leading 68-58.
Toney Douglas' layup gave New York its first lead of the second half with 45 seconds to go in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter and the game came down to the last minute as neither team was able to pull away.
With less than three minutes remaining and the Knicks down by three, Billups used his experience to draw a foul on Jordan Farmar during a three-point attempt. Billups calmly sank the three free throws to put the score even at 114-114.
An Anthony jumper game the Knicks a 116-114 lead with 1:07 remaining.
Douglas earned two points during a trip to the charity stripe and extended the Knicks lead to 118-114.
Humphries cut the Knicks lead to 118-116 off a tip-in on Williams’ missed layup.
Williams had a chance to tie the game, but missed a 17-foot jumper. Billups grabbed the missed rebounds and was fouled by Morrow.
Billups sank both free throws and put the game out of New Jersey’s reach.
“It feels good, especially right now, the time that it's happening,” Anthony said to AP. “Must-win situations, games that we really need coming down the stretch, getting into the playoffs, it's almost perfect timing for me to get into a groove like that.”
New York’s next game is Sunday night versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. New York has lost three games against Cleveland this season.
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