Smith returns as Knicks welcome Spurs for MSG matinee

( - The New York Knicks get a gigantic piece of their rotation back on Sunday afternoon when they welcome the San Antonio Spurs to Madison Square Garden.

J.R. Smith, the NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year, is eligible to play Sunday after sitting the first five games of the season due to a suspension consistent with a failed drug test.

New York is 25th in the NBA in scoring at 93.8 ppg, so Smith, who averaged 18.1 ppg last season, should help immediately. Smith underwent left knee surgery in July.

Smith's reappearance should offset some of the blow caused by Tyson Chandler's absence. Chandler has a small non-displaced fracture of his right fibula and will be out four-to-six weeks.

Actually, the player who best replaced Chandler in Friday's 101-91 road win in Charlotte was Andrea Bargnani. The new member of the Knicks slid over to the starting center spot and scored 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Carmelo Anthony led the way with 28 points and Raymond Felton chipped in 15 points.

The Knicks snapped a three-game losing streak with the win over a familiar face. Patrick Ewing served as Charlotte's head coach on Friday while Steve Clifford, the Bobcats' head man, was in the hospital, and later underwent a small heart procedure.

"We finally put a 48-minute ballgame together," said coach Mike Woodson.

The Spurs won their third game in a row Friday night with a 76-74 home victory over the Golden State Warriors. Tony Parker scored the last seven points for the Spurs, who moved to the top of the Western Conference with the win.

"We certainly couldn't put it in the basket, so the defense was really important tonight," said head coach Gregg Popovich. "It was an ugly game offensively. We were fortunate, anybody could've won that game."

Maybe, but the Spurs did win thanks to 18 points from Parker and 13 from Kawhi Leonard. No other San Antonio player scored in double figures, but all nine other Spurs who played managed to score.

Popovich was right about the poor offense, although the Warriors had an excuse. Steph Curry missed the game with a bone bruise on his ankle and the Warriors out-shot the Spurs in field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free-throw percentage. Golden State out-rebounded the Spurs, but San Antonio forced 20 turnovers and scored 20 points off of those miscues.

Sunday's afternoon tilt starts a two-game eastern trip. The Spurs visit Philadelphia on Monday night after two home games. San Antonio already visited the west coast earlier this season.

The Knicks swept both games last season against the Spurs and New York has won three of its last four against San Antonio in Madison Square Garden.