NEW YORK — J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony watched the end of the Chicago Bulls’ streak-busting victory over LeBron James and the Miami Heat Wednesday night.
Because of their post-game viewing choice, the duo was a little late getting into the Knicks’ locker room.
Chicago’s 101-97 win over the Heat combined with the Knicks 108-101 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at Madison Square Garden means the Knicks now own the NBA’s longest winning streak.
Sure, it’s only six games and not 27 like the Heat, but the Knicks won’t turn down the distinction.
“Hey, we’ll take it,” Smith said after pouring in a game-high 35 points on 10-for-18 shooting for his NBA-best fourth 30-point game off the bench this season.
“I just seen the Heat lose to the Bulls, but they had a helluva streak. We just gotta keep focused on our team and start our own.”
The Knicks (44-26) entered the night 2 1/2 games ahead of the rivals Nets for the Atlantic Division lead. They haven’t won the division since the 1993-94 season, when they marched to the NBA Finals.
Can the Knicks get to 27 in a row, which would take them into a postseason run?
“I don’t know all about that,” Smith said with a smile. “We’ll just take it a game at a time.”
Anthony added 22 points, but for the second straight night ceded high-scoring honors to Smith, his close friend and former teammate with the Denver Nuggets.
New York is 2-1 against Miami this season, including a pair of 20-point victories.
Had the Heat beaten Chicago and then won at New Orleans and at San Antonio, they would have lined up victory No. 31 in a row against the Knicks Tuesday in Miami.
“I don’t care about that,” Anthony said. “It’s great for them, it’s great for the sport for me to sit and watch them win 27 gams. It’s a great thing. I don’t know what you want me to say about that.”
Everything seems to be coming up rosy for the Knicks, who raced out to a 30-point lead but had to fend off the hard-charging Grizzlies down the stretch.
New York dispatched a high-powered Western Conference team (47-24), even if as Smith said, they got to enjoy the New York lifestyle the night before.
The Knicks are now 18 games over .500 for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.
Aside from Smith and Anthony, Iman Shumpert had his best game in weeks, breaking out for 16 points, all in the first half. It was his second-highest point total of the season.
After losing four in a row on the recent West Coast swing, the Knicks have now rattled off six wins in a row, with No. 7 looming Friday night against a bad Charlotte team.
“We had to put that behind us,” Shumpert, who made his first six shots, said of the losing streak. “We finally got over it. Right now we are rolling.”
The Knicks can look forward to Tyson Chandler (neck) possibly returning Friday against Charlotte or Sunday against Boston. Amar’e Stoudemire also hopes to return from knee debridement for the playoffs.
And right now, Smith is making a serious run at Sixth Man of the Year honors by driving to the basket and getting to the foul line instead of settling for jumpers.
“He’s dialed in right now and that’s the J.R. we all know about,” Anthony said. “That’s the J.R. we look for…We just hoping that he keep it dialed in right now because what he’s doing right now he’s putting this team over the top.”
Said Knicks coach Mike Woodson: “[Smith] has been playing well the last two or three weeks. I think he is starting to figure out some things. He is mixing his game up. He is taking it to the hole, rebounding and making a conscious effort to defend.”
For now, the Knicks — and not the Heat — own the NBA’s longest winning streak.
But their immediate goal is winning the division for the first time in nearly 20 years.
“We are trying to stay on top of our division and playing for the second spot so we are trying to maintain,” Woodson said. “There are a lot of things out there at stake and our guys are making the conscious effort to push forward and it is converting into wins.”
**For Video, Notes and Quotes on the game, read my NBA.com Notebook here.