Rapid Reaction: Knicks 111, Bobcats 102

WHAT IT MEANS: Another night, another Knicks win.

And another strong performance from J.R. Smith.

Smith scored a season-high 37 points to lift New York to its seventh straight win -- a 111-102 decision over Charlotte that wasn't competitive until the final two minutes.

Smith, the Knicks' sixth man, had 32 against Boston on Tuesday and 35 the next night against Memphis.

He's the first bench player to score 30 or more in three straight games in more than 20 years.

Milwaukee's Ricky Pierce accomplished the feat in 1990.

The Knicks have won seven in a row for the first time since their seven-game streak from Feb. 4-Feb. 15 last season. That was the beginning of Jeremy Lin's rise to prominence.

With 11 games to play, the Knicks are 3 1/2 games up on Brooklyn in the Atlantic (the Nets lost to Denver on Friday). They are percentage points in front of Indiana for 2nd place in the East.

The Bobcats, by the way, have lost nine straight on the road.

ANOTHER SLOPPY FOURTH QUARTER: On Wednesday, the Knicks let a 30-point lead dwindle to four in a win over the Grizzlies. It happened again on Friday. The Knicks were up by as many as 30 in the first half but the Bobcats cut the lead to seven with 2:15 to play, outscoring New York by 12 in the first 10 minutes of the fourth.

Carmelo Anthony turned the ball over with just under two minutes to play, giving Charlotte a chance, but Ben Gordon bricked a rushed a 3-pointer with 1:15 to go.

Smith then converted a layup and then had a steal to essentially seal the win.

ANTHONY A LITTLE OFF? For the third straight night, Anthony got his points, but he didn't do so very efficiently. He finished with 32 points on Friday night but went 11 for 28 from the floor. He got to the line at will, though, hitting nine of 10 free throws. He also grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds.

In the two games prior to Friday, Anthony made just 18 of 50 shots and scored 25.5 points. Ray Felton had 16 for the Knicks. Iman Shumpert had another strong first quarter (eight points) to help New York build an 18-point lead at the end of the first.

NOT KEMBA'S NIGHT: Bronx native Kemba Walker owned the Garden in his final season at UConn, leading the Huskies to a Big East championship at the World's Most Famous Arena.

But he had a rough night with the Bobcats on Friday.

Walker, a former Rice HS standout, finished with 16 points but missed 13 of 19 shots. He went 1 for 5 from beyond the arc. New Jersey native Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 14 and Gerald Henderson led Charlotte with 35 points.

WHAT'S NEXT: The Knicks will end their three-game home stand with a Sunday evening matchup against the Celtics. The Knicks beat Boston by 15 on Tuesday. Kevin Garnett missed that game with an ankle injury and he's likely to miss Sunday's game as well.

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