Bobcats-Knicks Preview

The Associated Press

The New York Knicks are the new owners of the NBA's longest active winning streak and have their sights set on making noise in the playoffs as one of the Eastern Conference's top seeds.

That outlook can't be shared by the league-worst Charlotte Bobcats, though they're working just as hard to achieve their rather modest goal of climbing out of the cellar.

New York seeks a seventh consecutive victory and fifth straight over Charlotte when these teams meet Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks (44-26) have bounced back from a season worst-tying four-game skid and extended their run with a 108-101 victory over Memphis on Wednesday to open a three-game homestand.

New York is averaging 102.2 points during the winning streak compared to 81.8 during its skid, and it now owns the league's longest current run after Miami's 27-game win streak ended at Chicago on Wednesday.

"We had to put (the losing streak) behind us," said Iman Shumpert, who scored 16 points against Memphis. "Right now we're rolling and we're going to keep rolling going into the playoffs. We knew once we got a win and strung a couple together we'd get that (confidence) back."

The Knicks lead Brooklyn by 2 1/2 games for first place in the Atlantic Division and are battling Indiana for the East's second seed.

"It's coming down the stretch run and every game is important," coach Mike Woodson said. "We're playing that way, and that's how it should be at this point in the season. We're trying to stay at the top of our division and we're in the running for the (No. 2 seed). There's a lot of things at stake and our guys are putting forth the energy and it's converting to wins."

J.R. Smith has been one of the catalysts lately, following a 32-point performance in Tuesday's 100-85 victory at Boston with 35 on Wednesday. He's averaging 24.7 points during the winning streak.

"That's the J.R. we all know about," Carmelo Anthony said. "He's locked in and extremely focused on helping his team win basketball games. That's what we need from him."

With Anthony injured toward the end of the Dec. 5 meeting with the Bobcats, Smith nailed a fadeaway jumper as time expired to give the Knicks a 100-98 road victory.

It marked their eighth win in 10 matchups against Charlotte (17-54), which is hoping to avoid finishing with the NBA's worst record for the second straight season.

The Bobcats went 7-59 in the 2011-12 lockout-shortened campaign, resulting in a .106 winning percentage that set a league record for futility. With that dubious mark still etched in their minds, they've gone 3-2 over their last five and defeated Orlando 114-108 on Wednesday.

Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson each scored 34 points for Charlotte, which owns the league's worst record by one-half game behind the Magic.

"You never want to be seen as the worst team, regardless of how your season has gone," Henderson said. "Last year we were the undisputed worst team."

Walker, averaging 26.3 points over his last three, is looking ahead rather than in the past.

"We want to finish off this season strong and get some confidence so we know what we can do for next season," said Walker, who scored 25 points in the first matchup with New York. "We have to start building."

The Knicks have won 10 of 14 all-time meetings at Madison Square Garden.

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