By Sean Hartnett
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Last night, the Charlotte Bobcats came at the Knicks with everything they had. Famed boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer hyped-up the contest by pumping up the crowd and announcing Charlotte’s’ starting lineup before tipoff.
The under-.500 Bobcats were indeed “ready to rumble” with the Knicks.
Gerald Henderson caught fire in the fourth quarter and helped Charlotte build an eight-point lead with 6:13 remaining. The Knicks struck back with hustle defense and forced key steals that swung momentum back in their favor.
Jason Kidd made his presence felt by forcing two fourth-quarter steals in his return after missing four games due to back spasms. Kidd’s presence continues to rub off on his teammates, as they forced a number of late turnovers and the Bobcats lost their cool.
While Kidd was on the bench, Carmelo Anthony lacerated his left middle finger by diving into the Knicks’ bench. Head coach Mike Woodson subbed Kidd in for Anthony — as Melo was forced to watch the remainder of the game from the visiting locker room.
A Total Team Victory And The Wild Unpredictability Of J.R. Smith
Without their best offensive weapon and clutch late-game shooter, the Knicks pulled out a victory under unusual circumstances.
J.R. Smith forced a hustle steal in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter. Raymond Felton marched down court on a two-on-one break, but a totally-confused Smith took a step back instead of rushing into position for an easy layup.
For a moment, Smith began handling the ball aimlessly and had no idea what do with it. Kidd intelligently called a timeout with 3.4 seconds remaining. Whenever Kidd is on the court, he’s always aware and alert.
Woodson drew up a play and Smith went from potential goat to hero as he sunk the game-winning fadeaway jumper at the buzzer and busted into Victor Cruz’s salsa dance.
“J.R. just hung in there and kept grinding, and he made the shot that counted,” Woodson told reporters after the victory.
“It was unbelievable,” Smith said of his game-winner. “It was the first game-winner I’ve ever hit. I knew what move I wanted to go to with my step-back, but it was just a matter of getting there and setting him up to it. Fortunately he fell for it and I got it off.“
Knicks Have Great Momentum Heading Into Miami
The Knicks averted what could have been a devastating loss ahead of their showdown with the Miami Heat. Instead, it was a feel-good victory that can carry into Thursday night’s nationally televised game in Miami.
Woodson called his team’s gusty win “a total team effort” after the Knicks, without Melo late, pulled together to steal a victory before overtime.
The Knicks have a lot of things going for them ahead of their heavyweight bout with the Heat. Tyson Chandler has been a force in the paint, averaging 18 points and 11.6 rebounds in his last five games. He scored 18 points and hauled down 17 rebounds against the Bobcats.
Raymond Felton is playing turnover-free basketball. The Knicks point guard was incredible on Thursday night as he scored 17 points, dished nine assists and did not turn the ball over. In his past two games, Felton hasn’t committed a turnover and is averaging 20 points and eight assists.
On top of that, the cold-shooting J.R. Smith finally hit the kind of basket that will make us forget his bad stretch. Kidd is once again healthy and providing the veteran savvy that holds the Knicks together.
The Knicks are ready to give the Heat a difficult test.
“Miami’s sitting at top,” Woodson stated. “They’re the NBA champions and we’re trying to get where they were a year ago. Hopefully, it will be a hell of a match tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes.”
Melo Probable To Suit Up Against The Heat, Camby Out
Anthony wasn’t sure if he’ll be ready for the Heat on Thursday, but Woodson had a different opinion.
”I was hurt, but J.R. made it feel better,” Anthony mentioned after the game. ”Right now it’s numb, so I don’t know.”
“He’s going to play,” Woodson told Al Iannazzone of Newsday. “He’ll be ready to play. He’s a tough kid.”
One Knick who is sure to miss out on Thursday is Marcus Camby, who is recovering from plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
The Rematch Everyone Has Been Waiting For
Few predicted the Knicks would shock they Heat on Opening Night at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks cruised to a runaway 104-84 victory and Melo dominated with a game-best 30 points and 10 rebounds.
Obviously, Melo’s health will be crucial. If Anthony can’t go, the Knicks have proven all season they’re much more than a one-man team and will give Miami a run for their money on Thursday night.
“We’ll see if I get out there and play tomorrow, but we’ve got guys every single night who continue to step up,” Anthony stated.
Will the Knicks shock the Heat in their home building? Sound off below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.