For Carmelo Anthony, it was a break.
Anthony scored 40 points and the Knicks got key contributions from J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton during a 19-5 fourth-quarter run that sparked New York to its 10th straight victory, 95-82 over Atlanta on Wednesday night.
"Melo is smart enough to know that if he's doubled, he'll sacrifice the ball," said Knicks coach Mike Woodson. "And we've got enough shooters around him that are making big shots. That opens it up for him even more. And when he gets going like he did tonight, they're not going to leave him alone very often."
Anthony, who scored 50 in his last game at Miami, scored 26 in the first half. He commanded more defensive attention in the second half, which left opportunities for Smith, who scored 19, and Felton, who scored 14. Felton's quickness to the basket resulted in three straight scores during a 12-2 streak that turned a tie game into an 84-74 Knicks lead that was never threatened.
"A lot of (Anthony's) points came off the bounce, with just two or three dribbles, and then a quick pull-up," Woodson said. "When he got doubled, he got the ball out. It was kind of nice to play off him tonight."
Atlanta forward Al Horford admitted, "He hit a lot of tough shots. I think he was very comfortable out there. We probably should have tried to pressure him more."
Anthony made 17 of 27 from the field and was 5-for-6 at the line. He also had five rebounds and three assists, with only one turnover.
"The rhythm was there and I wanted to see if I still had it going," Anthony said. "It was just one of those nights once again. I feel like when I have the opportunity, I just want to take my time and take it when I'm open and then find the open man when I'm doubled."
The game was tied at 72 with 9:48 left when New York took control. The Knicks outscored the Hawks 23-10 the rest of the way, as Felton scored 10 in the final period.
"I think our coverages were bad," said Hawks guard Jeff Teague. "I should have backed up a little bit on Raymond Felton and let him shoot a contested shot. But I got up a little bit and he used his speed to get by me."
The win puts New York in sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference.
"This team is playing for something," Woodson said. "We know every game counts. We've had our ups and downs because of injuries, but we've just got to finish this regular season out."
Atlanta lost the opportunity to move into a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference and wasted a 25-point effort by Kyle Korver, who came up two points short of his season high.
"They were switching a lot of things trying to take away Josh (Smith) and Al and I was able to get some looks in the first half," Korver said. "I tried to knock them down."
Korver moved into third place on the all-time list for consecutive games with a 3-point basket. Korver passed Reggie Miller at 10:54 in the first quarter when he made a 3-pointer from the right side. He's now connected for a trey in 69 straight games. Korver is still a long away from catching Dana Barros (89 consecutive games), but is within distance of Dennis Scott (78) and Michael Adams (79).
"We played a very hot basketball team," said Hawks coach Larry Drew. "Particularly Carmelo, who's playing at a very high level right now, shooting the ball extremely, extremely well. I thought there were times we defended him well. He still made shots."
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.