But Anthony knew when it was close at the end, somebody would make a play.
"It was just a will to win out there tonight," Anthony said. "Shots was going in and out, we wasn't making shots, myself, Amare," Anthony said. "We shot 30-something percent from the field, so we had to grind it out on the defensive end and then crunch time we had to make something do."
Stoudemire shot 7 of 25 but had 25 points and 12 rebounds, while Tyson Chandler finished with 20 points and 13 boards. Anthony, perhaps still bothered by a sore lower back, was only 6 of 18 from the field, but scored eight of the Knicks' final nine points.
Iman Shumpert scored 16 points for the Knicks, who won their third straight since a 118-110 home loss to the Bobcats last Wednesday. New York still figures it will score like it did that night and defend like it did in this one.
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"There's going to be definitely nights where we've got to lean on our defense, but I think once we start clicking we'll be in the upper 100s and these games will be blowouts," Chandler said.
Boris Diaw had 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for the Bobcats, who dropped their third in a row since that victory at Madison Square Garden. He scored a season-high 27 points in that game.
"They did play better than they played against us last week," Diaw said. "It was more of a defensive game tonight. They adapted from what we did in the first game."
The Knicks defended much better in the rematch but almost wasted it as they struggled to finish around the basket all night. They made just two field goals in the opening nine minutes of the fourth quarter, and D.J. Augustin's 3-pointer tied it at 82 with 2:57 remaining.
Anthony drove for the go-ahead basket with 2:39 to go, then was credited with another field goal on a goaltending call about a minute later. A jumper by Gerald Henderson was followed by a free throw by Anthony and one by Landry Fields to make it 88-84 with 13 seconds remaining.
Augustin's 3-pointer from the corner cut it to one with 10 seconds to go, but he missed a chance to tie it again with 3.7 to go after Anthony made two free throws with 8.6 seconds to go.
"The last play of the game we got a wide-open 3 from our best 3-point shooter. So I can't fault us at all for the effort," coach Paul Silas said.
Henderson scored 14 points and Augustin had 12 points and eight assists for the Bobcats, who opened a stretch of five games in six nights.
The Bobcats' points and 55 percent shooting were the highest allowed this season by the Knicks, who insisted they were committed to playing better defense after acquiring Chandler. But a crowd that was buzzing that night with the returns of Stoudemire and Shumpert from injuries was booing the Knicks by the second half.
"We did play an excellent game, but they're going to come at us with a vengeance tonight, no question in my mind," Silas said before the game, "because I don't know if they took us for granted or not a little bit, but I know tonight they're going to really go all out to show us that we don't belong with them."
But the Bobcats came out looking capable of a repeat, breaking out to a 10-0 start. The Knicks regrouped to take a 24-21 lead after one quarter, extended it to a nine-point advantage midway through the second, and were up 50-45 at halftime.
The Knicks finally put a charge into the crowd midway through the third. Shumpert threw down a dunk after a steal, but then Chandler bolted into the lane to catch and throw down a lob pass from Anthony. Chandler then made a pair of free throws for the Knicks' first double-digit lead of the game at 69-59 with 4:33 remaining.
"They played a lot better in this game," Silas said. "They played tougher defense. They really played us hard and tough, and last game they didn't really play us that tough."
- Knicks guard Mike Bibby missed his lone 3-point attempt after making his previous seven. The team record for consecutive made 3-pointers is 10, shared by Trent Tucker and Allan Houston.
- The Bobcats started DeSagana Diop at center for the second straight game but went back to former starter D.J. White to start the second half.
- Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said Jared Jeffries (sore right calf) could return at the end of this week or early next.