PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Boos infused the arena the instant Carmelo Anthony shed his warmup jacket in the fourth.
He watched almost 5 minutes on the bench with foul trouble, and the 76ers fans — who saw Anthony torture their team through three quarters — knew more clutch baskets were ahead.
In a game with playoff seeding in play, Anthony helped top the Sixers on the court and in the standings.
He had 31 points and 11 rebounds, Amare Stoudemire scored 18 points and the New York Knicks beat the Philadelphia 76ers 97-92 on Wednesday night for their fifth straight win and to move into sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re keeping the momentum going, we’re keeping the streak going,” Anthony said.
Toney Douglas bailed out the Knicks after they blew a 19-point lead and trailed by one late in the fourth.
Douglas hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:47 left for a 90-88 advantage, then made two free throws with 42 seconds left for a four-point lead.
Andre Iguodala pulled the Sixers within one with his first 3-pointer of the game. Anthony, who scored 28 through three, came through with a big-time 3-pointer and pounded his chest in celebration with a 95-91 lead.
“As soon as I let it go, I felt good,” Anthony said.
Each team has 40 wins and New York holds a half-game lead on the Sixers.
The Knicks could play Friday at New Jersey without Stoudemire after he sprained his left ankle late in the fourth.
“Hopefully, I can go,” he said.
Thaddeus Young scored 15 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, nearly rallying the Sixers by himself. Elton Brand had 24 points and nine rebounds.
The drama and atmosphere in the fourth was more worthy of teams fighting for the top seed, not the sixth.
Young attacked the basket for a string of hoops that had the crowd roaring. The teams looked as if they knew how to handle big games in April — if this counts as a big one.
Jodie Meeks capped the comeback and 10-0 run on a fast break off a turnover that made it 88-87 with 2:47 left.
Philadelphia’s fun was short-lived.
Douglas hit the 3 and Young, 11 of 16 from the field, fumbled the ball out of bounds. Douglas capitalized with a pair of free throws.
While Anthony played like New York’s best player, Iguodala flopped for the Sixers. His 3 was the one bright spot in an otherwise 5-of-15, 15-point effort. He’s been bothered by various injuries and was affected by playing heavy minutes on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Knicks did lose guard Chauncey Billups late in third. He lay flat on his stomach for a bit as trainers and coaches rushed to check on him late as he gingerly walked off the court. He left with a bruised right thigh.
He didn’t return in the fourth and the Knicks seemingly didn’t need him with a 78-65 lead entering the quarter.
“Billups could have come back, but we were just being cautious,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said.
The big early lead surely pleased the orange-and-blue patches of Knicks fans who made their voices heard among the crowd of 18,000-plus.
Anthony had the Knicks pulling away in the third. He sank a 19-footer, then consecutive 3s that made it a 14-point game. After the second 3, Anthony flashed a wide smile and pumped his fist as made a U-turn toward the bench after the Sixers called timeout.
Anthony’s fourth 3-pointer gave the Knicks a 67-50 lead.
“We wanted to win. I don’t really care about six or seven,” Anthony said.
The Sixers missed 16 of 18 3s a night after a 99-82 loss at Boston. They have lost three straight games for the first time Nov. 23-26, which dropped them to 3-13.
“The shots will come. We got good ones,” Brand said.
Stoudemire said he needed to see how the ankle responds over the next day and Friday afternoon before deciding to play.
“It’s pretty sore,” he said.
New York stormed down to Philly with a determined attitude to snatch the sixth seed and broke out to a big lead.
The Sixers, a team without superstars, are in the playoffs because of a well-rounded roster and grit. Sure enough, four players scored during an 11-0 run in the second quarter that cut the lead at halftime to 49-41.
“How many times did it look like our guys were just dead in the water tonight? Typical 76ers team of this year,” coach Doug Collins said. “Fought, fought, fought. Somehow, we had a one-point lead.”
Just not at the end.
Notes: The Knicks and 76ers finished the season series tied 2-2. … Iguodala had six assists with no turnovers. … The Knicks have won three of four in Philadelphia after dropping nine straight before that span.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)