By Al Iannazzone

The Knicks’ let a 24-point third-quarter cushion dwindle to two in the fourth. But they never relinquished the lead, and remarkably remain alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Knicks (30-42) are just two games behind eighth-place Atlanta with 10 to play.

Carmelo Anthony had a huge night, scoring 36 points. He twisted his right ankle late in the game, but said he would be ready to play Friday when this five-game trip continues in Phoenix.

The Knicks jumped out right away on the Kings and were up 15 at the half. Sacramento has just one healthy point guard on their roster — Ray McCallum — and he shot 3-for-14. Small forward Rudy Gay had to handle some of the point guard duties, and he had an off night, going 4-for-10 with 14 points.

But DeMarcus Cousins gave the Knicks fits. He led the Kings (25-46) with 32 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists.

In the fourth, the Kings got within 91-87 with 7:01 left. On the ensuing trip, Smith buried a three-pointer, and the Knicks went up 96-87 after an Anthony jumper with 6:03 left.

A Cousins’ three-point play made it 96-94. But Smith delivered again, drilling a three with 4:10 left to put the Knicks up five. It stayed that way until Anthony drove and fed Amar’e Stoudemire for a dunk that made it 101-94 with 2:49 to go.

STAT finished the game with 12 points and 6 rebounds.

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