Notebook: Big Bargnani, cool Carmelo

ATLANTA -- Andrea Bargnani scored 20 points and had a season-high 11 rebounds Wednesday in his best game since becoming a Knick.

He finished 8-for-15 from the field, including 2-for-4 from beyond the arc. Both long balls came in the fourth quarter, one banking off the backboard.

That helped make up for another sub-standard shooting night by Carmelo Anthony, who scored 25 points on 9-for-25 shooting in the Knicks' 95-91 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

"I'm at practice with him. ... Working with him, I see what he can do," Anthony said of Bargnani. "I see the upside to him being on the court with me. Tonight, it showed that. He spread the floor, and created a lot of problems out there on the offensive end.

"I'm just being aggressive. For some reason, my shot is not falling right now, but I always believe the next one is going in. I'm going to keep on doing it. My team needs me to do that."

J.R.'s jump-start: Coach Mike Woodson inserted J.R. Smith into the starting lineup in place of guard Pablo Prigioni, and it paid off. Smith scored 12 points and had seven rebounds in just under 33 minutes. He made 3-of-7 3-pointers, a big improvement from his 1-for-9 showing in his first game back from suspension on Sunday against the Spurs.

Shumpert not happy about rumors: Iman Shumpert was not amused to learn of reports Wednesday that he had been included in possible trade discussions between the Knicks and the Denver Nuggets in exchange for big man Kenneth Faried -- who would certainly fill a need for New York.

"Yeah, it pissed me off, but that's what the New York media does," he said. "It's not the first time. It happens."

Woodson, who told reporters before the game that rumors like this "are part of our game," spoke to Shumpert earlier in the day.

"He told me not to worry about it," Shumpert said. "He said that if they put you in trade rumors, other people want you and you should smile about it. Whatever."

Shumpert found something about which to smile. He scored a modest five points on 2-for-8 shooting but had six rebounds, four steals and most important a career-high nine assists.

"It's basketball," he said. “You drive the ball, [a defender] helps, the ball swings. ... If you've got a pass, make the extra pass and trust your teammates to make the shots."

Paint problems: The Knicks were pounded in the lane without defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler (broken leg), and the Knicks weren't doing much to get into the paint themselves. Through three quarters, Atlanta had a 48-18 edge in points in the paint.

Never did the Knicks consider relying on the arc to finish 12-for-34 from 3-point range.

"They gave us a lot of open shots. We didn't knock down those 3s, but we trust ourselves to keep shooting them," Shumpert said. "The only way to make them is to keep taking them. If people leave us open, we're going to shoot. We're not going to think about it."

While the Hawks missed 15 of their first 16 3-pointers through three-plus quarters, Atlanta pounded the paint, with Al Horford (23 points on 11-for-14 shooting) and Jeff Teague (25 points, eight assists) leading the way.

"Jeff has gotten so much better since the time I had him as a rookie," said Woodson, who coached the Hawks in 2004-10. "Teague had a great game. He was a nuisance on the pick and roll. We couldn't figure it out. That's something we've got to try and get better at."

In the fourth quarter, New York outscored Atlanta 10-8 in the paint, and 30-23 overall.