SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Before facing the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night, the New York Knicks had less than 24 hours to digest the painful lesson they learned in a blowout loss to the struggling Los Angeles Lakers.
“We can’t underestimate anybody,” forward Carmelo Anthony said after the Knicks bounced back to defeat the Kings 107-99. “We got to come out to play. A team like (the struggling Lakers) and what we’re trying to accomplish and what we’re trying to do, there’s no way we can get there by playing the way we did yesterday.”
Anthony scored 36 points against Sacramento, guard J.R. Smith added 29 thanks to a franchise-record-tying nine 3-pointers, and Knicks continued their playoff push with a much-need victory.
New York (30-42) pulled within two games of Atlanta for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks suffered a 107-83 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.
“We’re fighting,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “We built a big lead again tonight, and then they made a hell of a run. We withstood it by making plays coming down the stretch and making defensive stops. J.R. was big tonight. … It was a total team effort, and we’re going to need that the rest of the way.”
The Knicks snapped a two-game losing streak one night after allowing a franchise-record 51 points in a quarter — a nightmare third — against the Lakers.
“It wasn’t like we didn’t come out ready to play last night,” Woodson said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a second and third quarter like we played. You give up 51 points in a quarter and you score 31, that’s old-school basketball, that’s crazy. But we bounced back.
“That’s the fun part about this game. One day you’re down and the next day you’re back on your feet. We just got to build on this game and get ready for Phoenix (on Friday).”
Forward Amar’e Stoudemire had 12 points and center Tyson Chandler 10 for the Knicks, who won for the ninth time in 11 games.
Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins scored 32 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, extending his streak of double-doubles to 16. He also had a team-high eight assists.
Guard Ben McLemore contributed 16 points, while forward Travis Outlaw scored 15 off the bench for Sacramento (25-46). Forward Rudy Gay added 14 points.
Anthony made 12 of 21 shots from the field and five of eight 3-point attempts. Smith shot 10-for-19 from the field and 9-for-12 from long range.
“It’s tough when you live and die with that,” Gay said of the Knicks’ 3-point shooting. “Some days you’re going to be hot. They were hot. The last game they weren’t. Today they were hot. J.R. hit nine 3s. Melo hit five. They were just on fire. That’s basketball for you. That’s the NBA.”
The Kings played without injured starting point guard Isaiah Thomas, who is averaging 20.7 points per game. Rookie Ray McCallum made his first career start, and he went scoreless in the first half but finished with 10 points, six rebounds, five assists and four turnovers.
“All the guys helped me out a lot tonight multiple times,” McCallum said. “They were pulling me aside all night. DeMarcus was saying, ‘We need you Ray, lock in. We need you,’ so that helped.”
The Knicks led by as many as 24 points in the third quarter and took an 86-72 lead into the fourth. However, the Kings opened the final period with an 8-0 run, cutting their deficit to 86-80 with 9:36 left.
Smith ended that run with a 3-point shot, and after the Kings pulled to within four points, he drilled another shot from long range, making it 94-87 with under seven minutes left.
Cousins cut the Knicks’ lead to 96-94 on a three-point play with 4:30 left, but Smith answered with yet another 3-point basket, making it 99-94 with just over four minutes remaining. Stoudemire increased the Knicks’ lead to 101-94 with a dunk.
“That was big-time,” Anthony said of Smith’s game. “He stepped up and knocked down shots. Just his overall game tonight really kind of put us over the top. Got us out to an early start. He continued throughout the whole game to play like that.”
The Knicks owned a 31-28 lead after the first quarter as Smith scored 14 points, shooting 5-for-6 from the floor and 4-for-4 from long range. New York outscored the Kings 32-20 in the second quarter, extending its lead to 63-48 by halftime.
NOTES: Kings starting PG Isaiah Thomas missed the game with a right quad contusion he suffered Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks. “He really tried to get back,” Sacramento coach Michael Malone said before the game. “He wants to play in the worst way, but that’s a real deep thigh bruise.” … Sacramento F Quincy Acy (sprained right ankle) suited up after being inactive the previous two games but did not play.
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