Mike D'Antoni was back at the Garden and Carmelo Anthony was having his way with his former coach's defense, much to the crowd's delight. But then a loud thud led to serious concern.
A hard foul by Dwight Howard sent Anthony crashing to the floor awkwardly. Anthony lying under the basket in obvious pain was the last thing the Knicks and their fans wanted to see, especially this season, when they're dreaming big.
Anthony tried to stay in the game, shooting the free throws, but ultimately limped off with a sprained left ankle with 6:41 left in the third quarter and the Knicks up by 17 points. He never returned.
The Knicks were able to hold off Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, 116-107, and improve to 9-0 at home this season. The Knicks have won eight of their last nine overall, but Anthony's health is the concern now. He said his ankle, knee and hip are sore and doesn't know if he'll play Saturday against Cleveland.
"I just took a hard fall," said Anthony, who scored 30 points in 23 minutes. "It was a hard foul. I couldn't catch my fall. It was an awkward fall. Right now I'm sore."
Mike Woodson said Anthony has a "slight sprain" and called him day-to-day.
"I don't think it's anything serious," Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald said.
"Talking to him, it may be a short-term thing but not long- term," Tyson Chandler said. "Hopefully it's not too bad."
Anthony may not have liked playing in D'Antoni's offense, but he enjoyed attacking his defense before he got hurt, and the Knicks were coasting. They built a 26-point lead with 7:20 left in the second quarter.
Anthony hit his first four shots, three of which were three-pointers, and scored 22 points -- two short of the team record for a quarter shared by Willis Reed and Allan Houston -- in the Knicks' 41-point first quarter. He shot 10-for-15 from the field overall.
"I was zoned in," he said. "I was locked in. 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.
"I wanted to beat them. I wanted to beat the Lakers, especially protecting our home court. It had nothing to do with Mike."
The Knicks have shown they can win without Anthony, as they did in Miami last week. But they don't want to be without their best player and legitimate MVP candidate for any extended period as they continue a regular season they hope ends with them getting one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
They own the East's best record at 17-5 and are 35-11 overall since Woodson replaced D'Antoni, including 20-1 at home.
D'Antoni was booed in his first time back at the Garden after his Knicks career ended March 14 with a six-game skid and amid obvious tension with Anthony. Since then, Anthony and the Knicks have flourished under Woodson, and Thursday night was another example.
The Knicks shot 23-for-31 in the first 16:40 of the game and built a 58-32 lead in the second quarter. They also had no turnovers at that point, which showed the Lakers weren't applying any pressure.
With Anthony in the locker room, the Lakers, who were led by Bryant's 31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, charged back. They drew within 113-107 on Metta World Peace's three-point play with 1:27 remaining, but helped by two back-taps by Chandler on the offensive boards, the Knicks didn't let the Lakers touch the ball again until 18.1 seconds remained.
The Lakers are 4-9 under D'Antoni and have lost four in a row and six of seven. "We have some problems to solve," he said.
The Knicks aren't practicing Friday, but Anthony likely will receive treatment. He was asked about his status for Saturday and which hurt more, his ankle or his knee.
"Right now, both of them are a little sore," he said. "I'm quite sure I'll know when I wake up and see what happens.''