NEW ORLEANS -- Carmelo Anthony had it going early and looked as if he was headed for a 40- or 50-point night. But his services weren't needed for most of the second half and not at all in the fourth quarter Tuesday night.
Anthony had to settle for a 29-point game and some extra rest, which should keep his legs fresher Wednesday night when the Knicks play in Dallas and try to continue one of the best starts in franchise history.
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The Knicks improved to 8-1 after routing the New Orleans Hornets, 102-80, to open this three-game road trip. This is the third time the Knicks have won eight of their first nine games. The other two times -- 1969-70 and '72-73 -- they won their only two NBA championships.
"I honestly thought he was going for 50," Tyson Chandler said. "Then I realized we were going to run away a little bit, so I thought maybe 40. But he had a hot hand."
Anthony was on fire, as he hit eight of his first nine shots. He scored 19 points in the first quarter and 23 in the half. Anthony ended up 12-for-22. He had six rebounds and four assists in 28 minutes.
"After I hit a couple of threes, I kind of told myself to keep going," Anthony said. "Then Raymond [Felton] came up to me, Jason [Kidd] came up to me and said we're coming to you, keep it going."
The Knicks opened up a close game in the third quarter and took control with a 27-10 run that gave them an 83-62 lead with 1:09 left. They outscored New Orleans 49-32 after halftime.
Ryan Anderson led the Hornets with 15 points starting in place of No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis, who sat out because of a stress reaction on his left ankle.
Felton scored 15 points -- hitting 5 of 6 three-pointers -- and had six assists. J.R. Smith also had 15 points, and Chandler grabbed 12 rebounds in 19 minutes.
But Anthony set the tone at the start, carrying the Knicks to a 29-17 lead after one quarter. He was responsible for 25 of those points, as he assisted on two three-pointers.
Chandler believes Anthony should be the leading candidate for MVP at this point of the season.
"We're playing the best basketball and it's because of him," Chandler said. "He's playing all over the floor on both ends. He should be on top of the race as far as MVP goes right now."
It's still very early in the season, but the Knicks and Anthony have become one of the biggest -- if not the biggest story in the NBA this year. Old Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni and the Lakers stole the headlines for a while with their coaching situation.
The Knicks' focus is on winning, beating the teams they should and going forward. Kidd said they talked about putting the Hornets away early so they could be rested for Wednesday night's game. If they hadn't, Anthony could have been on his way to a special night.
"It could have been a great night," said Anthony, who sat the final 15:49. "It's kind of hard to tell. I'm sure there will be nights like that again."
Before the season Anthony said he was done scoring 30 or 40 points a night. The Knicks still need that from him, but Anthony's leadership and overall play are major reasons they own the NBA's best record.
"He's one of the top players in this league and he's proving that this season so far," Mike Woodson said. "We just got to continue to push him to play at that level."