An 89-85 win over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday evening gave the Knicks only their second two-game winning streak of the season and three wins in their last four games. More importantly, they took their strong play during a 2-1 trip to the Texas Triangle last week and rolled it into another win, even after blowing a 15-point lead to open the fourth quarter lead.
Now at 12-22 overall and very much in the mix in the Atlantic Division, as well as for a playoff spot, the Knicks are getting healthy and playing better than they have all season.
"We're starting to have a little bit more fun out there, trusting each other a lot more than we have," Carmelo Anthony said after scoring a game-high 34 points on 13-for-24 shooting, including 6-for-7 from 3-point range. "Just believing in one another, so when it comes down to situations in games, guys feel like we're all on the same page, we're all a part of what's going on and that's just been the case these last couple of games."
A close win at the NBA title-contending San Antonio Spurs and a double-digit win at the Dallas Mavericks were wrapped around a competitive two-point loss at the Houston Rockets last week. That stretch led into Tuesday and after a sluggish first half, a 15-0 run midway through the third quarter, fueled by Anthony and the facilitation of Raymond Felton, helped push the Knicks ahead for good.
Leading by 15 points entering the fourth quarter, the final minutes turned into a gut-check as the Pistons pulled to within one late, but a key offensive rebound from Anthony with 4.9 seconds left, followed by two free throws with 2.9 seconds left, helped pull the Knicks through.
"Sometimes, it becomes a little contagious," Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said. "You win a few close games, you remember how you win them. I've always said, there's a fine line when there's close games between winning and losing. You've gotta pretty much do all the right things to secure a win and I thought we did that coming down the stretch.
To keep this string of strong play alive, the Knicks will have to go through the Miami Heat on Thursday, but then draw the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, Phoenix Suns on Monday and Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday.
Before anything else, that Heat game will be sure to draw a lot of attention, even if Anthony wasn't quite who or when the Knicks play next.
"That's who we play next? I honestly did not know," Anthony said. "We've gotta face them someway, somehow, one day or another. When do we play? Thursday? We gotta face them. It is what it is, we can't from them. I think we're getting better each day. They're playing well, we've gotta lace our sneakers up like they do come Thursday."