SALT LAKE CITY -- The Knicks ended March and their five-game western road trip in a place few could have expected earlier this month: one game out of a playoff spot.
Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points as the Knicks beat the Utah Jazz, 92-83, Monday night to keep pace with the Atlanta Hawks in the race for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
It was the 11th win in the last 14 games for the Knicks (32-43), who came back from a 10-point second-quarter deficit. They had a chance to return home percentage points ahead of Atlanta (32-41), but the Hawks rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat the 76ers, 103-95. Atlanta has a tiebreaker advantage on the Knicks based on conference record.
"I always thought we would have a chance to give ourselves a shot of making into the playoffs," Tyson Chandler said. "I still believe if we get in there, somebody's going to be in trouble."
Chandler finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, J.R. Smith added 13 points and Raymond Felton had 12.
Tim Hardaway Jr. (10 points) hobbled off the court with 17.7 seconds left after spraining his right ankle. X-rays were negative and he didn't rule out playing against the Nets Wednesday night, but he was walking very gingerly in the locker room and said he was scared when it happened.
"I couldn't really put all my weight on that foot, just trying to walk back on defense," he said. "I just stood there and said I couldn't go no more. I don't think it was the landing. It was before I went to jump up, I turned my body and twisted my ankle."
The Knicks were without Amar'e Stoudemire for a "maintenance and recovery day." He said he will return Wednesday.
Gordon Hayward scored 18 and Alex Burks had 17 for the Jazz (23-52).
The Knicks, who have seven games remaining, went 3-2 on the road trip. It didn't start well, as they allowed a franchise-record 51 points in the third quarter in a 31-point loss to the Lakers with new president Phil Jackson in attendance. In the third game, they lost by 24 points in Phoenix, and again looked mentally and emotionally drained.
But they rebounded from the first loss with a hard-fought win over the Kings and bounced back from the second one by edging the Warriors, and they didn't have a letdown Monday night.
"This was a very important win for us,'' Anthony said. "If we didn't come here and take care of this, then [the win at Golden State] wouldn't have mattered.''
The Knicks started to take control of the game with a 16-2 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters, opening an 84-69 lead with 9:54 left on Smith's jumper.
Chandler scored inside to put the Knicks up 88-77. After two straight misses by Utah, Felton's jumper made it a 13-point game with 4:28 left. The Jazz, which never threatened again, shot 6-for-22 in the fourth quarter and scored only 14 points, one more than the Knicks.
The Jazz was the last sub-.500 team the Knicks will face. They host the Nets and Wizards, play at Miami and Toronto, and end the season with three games in New York against the Bulls, at Brooklyn and against the Raptors. All of those teams are battling for seeding. The Knicks are battling just to get in, which didn't seem likely a little more than three weeks ago.
The Knicks were 21-40 on March 5, losers of seven straight and 10 of 11. They were in 11th place, 6½ games behind Atlanta for the eighth playoff spot -- but now they're in position to earn it. "We control our own thing," Anthony said. "We control our own destiny at this point."
The Knicks fell behind 40-30 with 6:25 left in the first half. But they cut it 49-48 at halftime after Smith hit a three-pointer with five-tenths of a second to go in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, the Knicks enjoyed runs of 15-2 and 12-2. Anthony and Hardaway combined to score the Knicks' last 12 points, sending them into the fourth up 79-69.
"This was a very important game for us,'' Chandler said. "We knew it was one we had to win. We gritted it out.''