J.R. Smith was the lone dissenting voice in the Knicks' locker room, not thrilled with how they beat the Hornets yesterday to break a three-game losing streak. He didn't see it as a sign they had turned it around.

The Knicks didn't break away in the 100-87 victory until early in the fourth quarter. Smith was part of the first-half malaise with a wretched last-second foul in the first half on a desperation 3-point shot by Brian Roberts. But Smith had a solid fourth quarter to finish with eight points on 3-of-11 shooting, six assists and four rebounds.

"We're starting to see progression, but we're playing against a team that's not going to be in the playoffs and we expect to play better than that,'' Smith said. "We talk about being a championship-caliber team, these games shouldn't be close.''

Smith fouled Roberts with .5 seconds left in the half, hacking him on a heave from just past midcourt. Smith knew coach Mike Woodson would be ticked.

"In my opinion, it wasn't a foul,'' Smith said. "It is what it is. When the ref blew the whistle, the coach gave me one of those 'what-the-hell-are you doing' looks. I think that was the worst part.

"For some reason, I have tendencies of fouling the jump shooter or getting bad fouls. I always recognized that look. There aren't too many times he doesn't look at me with that look."

* Amar'e Stoudemire's minutes restriction is up from 25 to 30, but he remains a sub. Woodson moved James White to starting shooting guard and rookie Chris Copeland started at small forward, allowing Carmelo Anthony to start at power forward, which is Woodson's preference.

Woodson was asked about sliding Stoudemire into the starting five and left the door open, as he always does.