NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The pregame boos had barely finished, and Mike D’Antoni suddenly had much bigger problems.
Carmelo Anthony had three 3-pointers in less than three minutes, and a look in his eye that he couldn’t be stopped.
“He has those games where he does that,” D’Antoni said. “And when he does that, the Knicks are awfully tough to beat, obviously.”
Especially for a team struggling like D’Antoni’s Lakers.
Anthony scored 22 of his 30 points in the first quarter, and the Knicks held on after he departed with a sprained left ankle to beat Los Angeles 116-107 in D’Antoni’s return to Madison Square Garden.
“I was zoned in. I was locked in,” Anthony said. “Tonight was one of those games where I had that feeling. I wanted to get it going and I had that feeling going early in the game. My teammates were feeding off of that.”
But a hard foul by Dwight Howard in the third quarter knocked Anthony from the game.
“It was one of those awkward falls,” said Anthony. “My knee and ankle are a little sore right now.”
Coach Mike Woodson said Anthony was day-to-day with a “slight sprain.” Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald said he didn’t think it was “anything serious.”
“Talking to him, it may be a short-term thing but not long-term,” said center Tyson Chandler. “Hopefully it’s not too bad.”
Firing in 3-pointers and moving the ball to open shooters, things they often struggled to do under D’Antoni, the Knicks won for the eighth time in nine games and improved to 9-0 at home for the first time since the 1992-93 season.
“I wanted to beat them. I wanted to beat the Lakers, especially protecting our home court,” Anthony said. “It had nothing to do with Mike. I wanted to protect our home court and win the basketball game.”
Meanwhile, things are starting as poorly for D’Antoni in Los Angeles as they ended for him in New York. The Lakers, still without Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, were never really in the game while losing their fourth straight and falling to 9-14.
Nash has started running and the Lakers know things will get better once he’s back, but that doesn’t help right now.
“At this point I wish we had the Washington Generals on our schedule,” Kobe Bryant said.
Anthony, playing at an MVP level after he struggled last season under D’Antoni, made his first three 3-pointers, nearly reaching his NBA-leading average of 9.7 points per first quarter before 2½ minutes were even gone. Bryant tried to keep pace but the Knicks couldn’t be stopped, making 17 of 23 shots (74 percent) and building a 41-27 advantage.
“He’s fun to watch when he’s playing like that,” Chandler said. “He’s pretty much unstoppable when he’s playing that way.”
Anthony finished two shy of the franchise record for points in a quarter, held by Willis Reed and Allan Houston. And he was easily on pace to pass Bryant’s building record of 61 points, though he didn’t even get halfway there after playing just 5 minutes in the second half.
Anthony said he didn’t know if he would be available Saturday against Cleveland.
When it was over, D’Antoni shook hands with Woodson, who replaced him on the New York bench, and a couple of Knicks players before walking off after another rocky night with the Lakers.
He’s often been considered an offensive genius whose teams are poor defensively, but right now the Lakers don’t really look good on either end.
The Knicks made 22 of their first 30 shots overall and started 8 of 10 behind the arc. Even when the Lakers tried to defend, it didn’t work. Howard batted the ball away from Rasheed Wallace in the post, so Wallace simply retrieved it in the corner, buried a 3-pointer, and the lead ballooned to 58-32.
“We are having a re-occurring theme that the first quarter is just not good, and then the first half is not great and in the second half we seem to turn it on, and we need to solve that problem real quick,” D’Antoni said.
It was 68-49 at the break, but the Knicks lost some of their flow when Anthony went to the locker room with 6:41 left in the third quarter and a 17-point lead. He had landed awkwardly after being fouled by Howard on a drive to the basket, and though he was able to stay in to shoot the free throws, Anthony was removed at the next whistle.
D’Antoni was booed loudly during pregame introductions, Knicks fans who appreciated the rugged defensive teams of the 1990s never truly embracing his offense-first style. D’Antoni said he enjoyed his time in New York and said earlier Thursday the Knicks, who lead the NBA in 3-pointers per game and fewest turnovers, were playing the way he’d like his team to play.
Sure enough, the Knicks made 12 3-pointers, right at their average, and turned it over just six times.
D’Antoni couldn’t get the Knicks’ offense going last season and tensions between he and Anthony seemed strained, though both denied it, when he resigned in March with the team threatening to fall out of the playoff race. The Knicks went 18-6 down the stretch under Woodson, who said he has kept aspects of D’Antoni’s system while adding in some wrinkles of his own.
The result is a team that has shot to the top of the Eastern Conference with a 17-5 record.
NOTES: The Knicks opened a six-game homestand. They don’t play on the road again until they visit the Lakers on Christmas. … New York has won the last two meetings after dropping nine in a row. … D’Antoni said he spent his off day in town visiting with his wife and son, who remained in New York after he took the Lakers job last month.
Do you expect Melo to miss some time? Be heard in the comments…
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