SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Even against the Western Conference's worst teams, nothing is coming easy for the New York Knicks right now.
Carmelo Anthony scored 36 points, J.R. Smith tied a franchise-record with nine 3-pointers and the Knicks held off a furious rally to beat the Sacramento Kings 107-99 Wednesday night and move a game closer to the final playoff seed.
"We needed all of them, I'll tell you that," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said, shaking his head in relief.
A night after a lackluster 127-96 loss at the Los Angeles Lakers, the Knicks avoided a monumental collapse to another of the league's cellar-dwellers.
New York led by 24 in the third quarter before Sacramento surged back, and the Knicks needed a scintillating shooting performance from its leading men to snap a two-game skid.
Smith scored 29 points on 10-for-19 shooting, including 9 for 12 from long distance. Anthony shot 12 for 21 from the floor and 5 of 8 from beyond the arc.
"That was big time," Anthony said.
New York (30-42) is two games behind Atlanta for the final playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference after the Hawks (31-39) lost 107-83 to Minnesota.
DeMarcus Cousins had 32 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists to carry the Kings, who played without injured point guard Isaiah Thomas (bruised right quadriceps). Ray McCallum made his first start in Thomas' place alongside fellow rookie Ben McLemore, and the two shook off a slow start to bring the Kings back.
McCallum had 10 points, six rebounds and five assists. McLemore scored 16. But New York outshot Sacramento 54.8 percent to 47.8 percent and finished 15 for 26 from 3-point range.
"The 3-point line killed us," Kings coach Michael Malone said. "You have J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony, that's going to be tough to beat."
About the only thing that kept the Kings close most of the night— besides Cousins — was free throws. Sacramento shot 27 for 35 on free throws, while New York finished 12 for 13.
Sacramento scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter and finished with a flurry of highlights to give the Knicks a scare.
Cousins' three-point play over Amare Stoudemire trimmed New York's lead to 96-94 with 4:30 remaining, sending most of the announced crowd of 15,494 roaring to their feet.