Tyson Chandler

In a regular season battle more exciting than expected and not decided until the final moments, the New York Knicks beat the Charlotte Bobcats 91-87 Monday night in Madison Square Garden.

It was a starter-heavy game for the Knicks, who barely utilized their limited bench. Each Knicks starter played 35 minutes or more. The entire bench scored just three points.

Knicks center Tyson Chandler shined against the Bobcats, who have extremely limited big-men and no real center to speak of. Shooting 7-of-8, Chandler racked up 20 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and three blocks. He’s still learning to play with his new teammates and will likely have some big nights followed by quiet outputs before a level of consistency can be found.

The Knicks were led by forward Amar’e Stoudemire with 25 points and 12 rebounds, but he had no assists and shot just 7-of-25. And forward Carmelo Anthony also had an imperfect game, scoring 22 points but needing 18 shots to get it, grabbing just four rebounds, and while he dished six assists he also committed six turnovers.

Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert, now a starter at point guard, continues to shine. The team is now 4-1 in games he’s played. The confident athlete finished tonight with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well tonight, but we buckled down defensively,” said Anthony after the game. “Other guys helped out tonight, took the load off, but we did what we had to do to win the game.”

Stoudemire feels the Knicks are headed in the right direction. “We’re still getting better as a unit. Right now we’re just learning on the fly. We only had a few preseason games and a short training camp, so we’re still trying to get better as we play these games. We just have to keep gutting them out.”

For the Bobcats, forward Boris Diaw continued his fine play against the Knicks, shooting 8-of-12 for 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Forward D.J. White came off the bench to shoot 7-of-11 for 15 points and seven rebounds. Starting guard Gerald Henderson scored 14, but on 16 shot attempts. And point guard D.J. Augustin scored 12 but needed 13 shots, and added eight rebounds but just four assists with three turnovers.

“I give them credit. They did play better than they played against us last week,” said Diaw about the Knicks. “They are athletic, they are fast, they are skilled, they are tall and strong.”

New York shot just 38% from the field and was a mere 1-of-10 from three-point range. But thanks to the Bobcats roster limitations, the Knicks came away with a win.

According to the Associated Press, “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 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.”

With the win, the 5-4 Knicks are second in the Atlantic Division, behind the Philadelphia 76ers.

With the loss, the 2-7 Bobcats are fourth in the Southeast division and are close to the bottom of the Eastern conference, ahead of only the New Jersey Nets and Washington Wizards.

The frenzied MSG crowd attendance was 19,763. The Knicks have now sold out 34 consecutive regular season home games.