Carmelo Anthony wasn't sure he would be able to play because his badly bruised left ankle still bothered him. But he felt good enough to inflict more pain on the slumping Nets.
Back after missing the last two games, Anthony looked as if he had taken no time off. He scored 31 points, the Knicks had their best defensive performance this month, and they turned the Garden into Lob City East with Tyson Chandler being the recipient of five alley-oops dunks in a 100-86 victory over the stumbling Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night.
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"I wasn't expecting to come back like I did," Anthony said after leading the Knicks to their 19th win in 25 games. "My ankle felt pretty good for the most part. I just wanted to come back and continue where I left off. That was my mindset."
Anthony continued his unbelievable play against the Nets. He's averaging 37 points in three games against them, leading the Knicks to two wins. He showed no ill effects from the spill he took when he landed awkwardly after a hard foul by Lakers center Dwight Howard last Thursday. Anthony shot 12-for-22 overall, including 4 of 8 from three-point range.
"He's a special player," Chandler said. "There's not many in this world that can take four, five days off and then come in and put up 31."
Anthony's presence also opened up the floor for his teammates as he faced double-teams almost after he passed midcourt.
J.R. Smith scored 19 points off the bench, and Chandler had 16 and 12 rebounds. He shot 7-for-11 from the field -- six of his field goals were slams. "I wanted to make a statement," Chandler said. "[This] was a big game for us, a game in our division, an opportunity to gain a full game as far as the lead goes. We have to make statements like this."
Raymond Felton, who served up three of Chandler's slams, was asked what the statement was.
"We're New York's team," Felton said. "I'm just kidding. The big thing is to maintain what we've been doing all year at home and that's winning."
The Knicks, who were without Steve Novak (flu) and Rasheed Wallace (foot), are New York's team. But they wanted to bounce back from their first home loss Monday to Jeremy Lin and Houston. They did with a strong defensive effort.
The Knicks hadn't held a team under 90 points since Nov. 30 against Washington. They allowed 25 points over the final 18:53 to the Nets, who have dropped 8 of 12 after sitting at 9-4 following their Nov. 26 win over the Knicks.
"We just manned up on the defensive end," Anthony said. "We've been slipping in that area. We wanted to get back to playing defense, being more aggressive out there."
Trailing by four in the third, the Knicks reeled off an 18-4 charge and led 75-65. Chandler had four dunks in the run. They extended to 84-71 after another Chandler slam with 7:21 left in the game. The Nets never got it under 10 after that.
Anthony went through the morning shootaround and tested his ankle. He initially said he would only play if he was 100 percent. "He looked good to me," Mike Woodson said. "If he's not 100 percent, I'll take whatever percent he was because it was awesome."