NEW YORK (AP) — Rasheed Wallace delivered a hard whack to Luis Scola, then some hard words to the referees.
Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points and the Knicks ran their best home start in 20 years to 7-0, withstanding Wallace’s ejection after a mere 1:25 of playing time to beat the Phoenix Suns 106-99 on Sunday.
Phoenix had won its last two at MSG but the Knicks have finally figured out under coach Mike Woodson that home-court games are not to be wasted. They are 18-1 in the regular season here since he took over last March, jumping on their last few opponents from the start.
“His whole thing when he came in is we’re going to protect our home floor. We’re going to win every game at home, or we’re going to try to win every game at home, and we’re going to go out on the road and compete,” center Tyson Chandler said. “So his whole thing is we’ve got to protect our house. Teams coming in got to feel like they’ve got to go somewhere else to get a win.”
Raymond Felton had 23 points, seven assists and no turnovers for the Knicks, who last won seven straight at Madison Square Garden to open a season when they started 9-0 in 1992-93. The point guard was hurting after the game, saying he was going to get an MRI on his swollen left hand.
“I got jammed in between another player,” he said. “Just a lot of pain in my thumb.”
Chandler finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds as the Knicks improved to 12-4 overall, a half-game behind Miami for the best record in the Eastern Conference. They got off to a good start in December after winning 11 in November for the first time since a 12-victory November in 1972 on the way to their last NBA championship.
“I think they’re a hell of basketball team. I really do,” Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said. “When you add Iman Shumpert and Amar’e Stoudemire back to the mix, shoot, they’re as good as anybody.”
The Knicks shook off the first ejection of Wallace’s comeback that left them short-handed. Jason Kidd missed a fourth straight game with lower back spasms but hopes to return during their three-game road trip that includes a game in Miami on Thursday.
Marcin Gortat had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns, who dropped their third straight and fell to 1-4 on their season-high, six-game road trip that ends Tuesday in Memphis. Shannon Brown scored 17 points.
The Suns have trailed by double digits in 14 of their 18 games and were already down 10 just 4:18 into the game. The Knicks seemed well on their way to eclipsing their NBA-best average of 27.5 points per first quarter when they jumped ahead 21-6 with 5:15 left in the period.
But they got bogged down committing fouls, including one on Wallace against Scola that was followed by a technical foul when he hit Scola across the arm after the whistle. After Goran Dragic missed the free throw, Wallace yelled “Ball don’t lie!” — his way of saying the call was proven wrong — and whistled for another to pick up his 31st career ejection, most in the league since 1991-92, according to STATS, LLC.
Wallace apologized to the Knicks before leaving without speaking to the media. The Knicks felt the foul wasn’t out of line because Scola continued to play through the whistle in trying to get a shot up, so Wallace had the right to as well.
“In this league, it’s something called continuation. Sheed stopped him, they gave a tech. It is what it is,” Anthony said.
Wallace has been called for more than 300 technical fouls in his career and led the league seven times, but said he was too old to be clashing with officials at age 38 when he ended a two-year retirement. But he’s up to four for the season now, one off the league lead.
Anthony said he thought the temperamental forward’s reputation was held against him Sunday.
“I think so. I mean he’s the only guy in the league that gets technicals for saying ‘Ball don’t lie,'” Anthony said, adding that Wallace should trademark the term. “So, I mean, that should tell you right there.”
The Suns pulled within 24-20 after one before the Knicks broke it open again late in the second with an 11-2 spurt that gave them a 59-39 lead with 24 seconds left in the half.
But the game got close a few times in the second half.
Phoenix had the ball with a chance to get within 10 in the final minute of the third but Gortat was whistled for an offensive foul. The Knicks then scored the next five points, taking an 89-72 lead to the fourth after Anthony made a 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left.
The Suns made a charge to open the fourth, pulling within 93-85 on Jared Dudley’s 3-pointer midway through the period. A follow dunk by Chandler before baskets by Felton and Anthony pushed the lead to 97-85 with 5:16 to go, yet still the Knicks couldn’t put it away. Phoenix got it down to 103-99 on Brown’s layup with 26 seconds left, but JR Smith — who was 1 of 11 from the field — made two free throws and Chandler added one.
“We’ve just got to stop digging ourselves in a hole,” Suns forward Michael Beasley said. “When you get down 15, 20 points, you kind of need a perfect storm to come back and I feel like we’re relying on that perfect storm in too many of our games.”
Notes: Backup center Marcus Camby, unable to crack the Knicks’ rotation after he was sidelined most of the preseason, was out with a sore left foot. … Suns veteran Jermaine O’Neal sat out with a strained right quadriceps. … The Knicks regained the series lead at 58-57. Phoenix has only led once, after winning the first meeting on Oct. 24, 1968. … The national anthem was performed by Abigail Shapiro, who plays Cindy Lou in the upcoming “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at Madison Square Garden’s theater. The Grinch was on the court posing for photos before the game.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)