Unfortunately for the New York Knicks, Thursday night may have been the easy part of a two-day test to finish out their first road trip of the season.
After an incredible rally helped them knock off one of the Western Conference's top teams, the undefeated Knicks hope to have something left in the tank for Friday night as they are set to visit the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies.
New York remained the NBA's lone unbeaten team at 6-0 despite finding themselves down by 12 points on Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs with 7:13 to play in the fourth quarter. However, Raymond Felton began a 27-point surge to finish off the game with a layup and Jason Kidd connected on back-to- back 3-pointers to get the Knicks rolling.
"It shows me this team is for real," said Knicks head coach Mike Woodson. "We beat a great team tonight."
Kidd ended with 14 points, shooting 4-of-6 from behind the arc, and Felton led the way with 25 points to help overcome an off night from Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony entered the game as the league's leading scorer, but managed just nine points on 3-of-12 from the floor. He did have 12 rebounds, while Felton dished out seven assists and J.R. Smith dropped in 17 points off the bench.
According to Anthony, the calming presence of Kidd helped the Knicks continue their best start since opening up the 1993-94 campaign 7-0, a season that ended with an NBA Finals appearance.
"Jason's one of the guys that kept us composed out there," said Anthony. "When they went up 10 or 11 points out there, he huddled us up and told us 'they're going to let us back in. Let's just continue playing our game, do what we do, play some defense and get some stops.' Everybody took heed of that and we fought back."
The Knicks hope to have some fight left against a Grizzlies team that has perhaps the top frontcourt in the NBA, led by center Marc Gasol and forwards Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay. All three stand at 6-foot-8 or higher and their size will go toe-to-toe with the speed and distance shooting of the Knicks.
"Zach and Marc Gasol are a big load down there, so we'll see. We'll make some adjustments," noted Anthony.
Teams have had trouble doing just that. Memphis, which brings a franchise- record 14-game home winning streak into this meeting, has won six in a row since opening the season with a loss at the Los Angeles Clippers, good enough for the best start in franchise history and the longest winning streak for the club since posting seven consecutive wins from Jan. 12-23.
An eight-game win streak from Jan. 11-25, 2004 is the longest in club history.
Memphis will look to get within a game of that record after knocking off the defending Western Conference-champion Oklahoma City Thunder 107-97 on Wednesday.
The Grizzlies trailed by 10 points following the first quarter, but outscored the Thunder 36-15 in the following frame to take control.
Gay notched 28 points and Randolph had his seventh double-double in as many games this season with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Gasol added 14 points.
"We all had a high level tonight and it showed on the court," said Randolph, who leads the NBA with 14.0 boards per game. "We shot the ball well and kept them from getting too much on the transition."
Randolph's numbers could have been a bit better, but he was ejected with 2:05 left in the game for jawing with Thunder center Kendrick Perkins.
Though the stakes aren't as high, Gasol will clash with Anthony for the first time since Gasol's Spanish national club was bested by Anthony and Team USA in the gold medal game at the 2012 London Olympics.
The Grizzlies won the lone meeting between these teams last season, 94-83 at Memphis, after getting swept in the two-game season series in 2010-11.