Rapid Reaction: Knicks 100, Bobcats 98

WHAT IT MEANS: J.R. Smith went from goat to hero.

Smith, who struggled from the field all night, drilled a fadeaway jumper from the left wing as time expired, and the New York Knicks escaped with a 100-98 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday. On the previous possession, Smith (6-for-16, 1-for-9 3-point range) caused a deflection that gave the Knicks the ball, but didn’t go in for a layup on a two-on-one fast break, instead backing it out, which drew the ire of his teammates, as they were forced to use a timeout.

The Knicks trailed by eight with 6:13 left in the fourth quarter, but came back to improve to 13-4, and now own the top record in the Eastern Conference. They have won four in a row heading into their marquee matchup with the Miami Heat on Thursday night.

MELO TIME: Carmelo Anthony, who had been averaging 30.7 points in his previous six games, came out gunning en route to 20 first-half points. He then missed his first 10 shots of the second half before finally getting a layup to go with 2:34 remaining in the fourth quarter. But 24 seconds later, he dove into the Knicks' bench trying to save a loose ball from going out of bounds, and was forced to head to the locker room due to a laceration on his left middle finger. Melo had just one point the last time the Knicks played the Bobcats, on Jan. 24 (0-for-7 shooting).

HOMECOMING: North Carolina product Raymond Felton, playing in front of several friends and family members, struggled to shoot the ball in the first half (2-for-9, 0-for-4 3-point range), in large part due to the fact he was wearing a wrap on his bruised left hand. But Felton was a different player after taking the wrap off. He ignited a 7-0 third-quarter run with a 3-pointer and a pair of assists. Then, he produced a five-second violation with 1:10 remaining and converted a driving layup to make it 98-all with 56.3 seconds left. Felton finished with 17 points, 9 assists and no turnovers.

WHERE’S THE D? The Knicks allowed one of the league’s worst offensive teams to hit 47 percent of its shots, 43.8 percent of its 3-point attempts. New York was also outrebounded, 50-36. The Knicks went 13-for-41 from 3-point range.

CONTROLLING THE PAINT: Tyson Chandler dominated inside in the first quarter, scoring eight points on 4-for-4 shooting while grabbing nine rebounds (four offensive). The 30-year-old center, who played in Charlotte in 2009-10, ended up with 18 points and 17 rebounds.

NEW YORK NIGHTMARE: Kemba Walker, a former standout at now defunct Rice High School, and Mount Vernon native Ben Gordon torched the Knicks all night, scoring from both the perimeter and by taking the ball to the rim. Walker had 25 points and 11 assists, while Gordon added 17 off the bench.

COMEBACK CITY: The Knicks trailed by 10 late in the second quarter, but closed the first half on a 12-4 run to trail just 53-51 heading into the locker room.

THIRD TO FORGET: The Knicks missed 14 of their last 16 shots in the third quarter -- at one point going through an 0-for-11 stretch. Still, they trailed by just 75-72 going to the final period.

RETURN OF KIDD: Jason Kidd returned from a four-game absence due to back spasms, and came off the bench for the first time since 2004. Kidd was not sporting a headband over the cut on his head, just a bandage. He had seven points in 25 minutes.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Knicks head to Miami to take on the defending champion Heat on Thursday night. New York stunned Miami, 104-84, on Nov. 2, making 19 3-pointers, while turning it over just 12 times. LeBron James & Co. are going to be out for revenge in this one.