Knicks hold off Suns to stay undefeated at home
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Mike Woodson has made "you must win at home" one of his first commandments since becoming the Knicks' coach. His players continue to follow that edict.
The Knicks held off the Suns, 106-99, Sunday afternoon, improving to 7-0 at the Garden this season and 18-1 at home under Woodson.
"That's been our mind-set," Carmelo Anthony said after scoring 34 points. "We want this to be one of the toughest buildings to come in here and win, to play here. We've been doing that thus far. We just want to keep it going."
The Atlantic Division-leading Knicks (12-4) own the second-best record in the Eastern Conference behind the Heat (12-3) and will play Thursday in Miami. But the Knicks weren't looking ahead to that game.
They open their three-game trip Wednesday in Charlotte, and of a more immediate concern was the health of starting point guard Raymond Felton, who jammed his left thumb. An MRI revealed a contusion and a bone bruise, and the Knicks are listing him as day-to-day.
The Knicks have been making it tough on visiting teams. They won the first six games by an average of 16.7 points and appeared on their way to another laugher, but they had trouble putting away the Suns.
After leading by 20 late in the first half and 17 after three, the Knicks let the Suns (7-11) close to 103-99 on Shannon Brown's layup with 29.3 seconds left. J.R. Smith made two free throws with 26.1 seconds to play and Tyson Chandler closed out the scoring with a foul shot with 17.1 seconds to go.
Before that, the only real drama involved Rasheed Wallace, who was called for two technical fouls and was ejected for the first time as a Knick.
"Every game is not going to be a runaway or a blowout for us," Woodson said. "We were able to close it out and get the 'W' -- that's what counts."
Anthony scored at least 30 points for the fifth time this season. He shot 11-for-27 and grabbed six rebounds. Felton had 23 points (10-for-17 shooting), seven assists and no turnovers, and Chandler had 15 points and 13 rebounds.
The Knicks seemed primed for a more lopsided victory after opening a 21-6 lead less than seven minutes into the game. They have won with relative ease at the Garden, and even this game was rarely in doubt.
Only two of the teams the Knicks have played at home have a winning record. But you can't discount the sense of urgency the Knicks are playing with, knowing the importance of beating the teams they should beat and establishing themselves at home.
"I've been stressing it since the day I took over: We've got to establish something here at the Garden," Woodson said. "The good teams that win at a high level, they win at home. That's the only way we're going to have a shot at trying to win our division and hosting first round at home.
"You've got to win at your spot, make it miserable for teams to come in here and play."
The Knicks have started doing that. But the schedule, home and away, will turn much tougher.
After they return from this week's trip, the Knicks will have some difficult home games against the Nuggets, Lakers, Nets, Bulls and Timberwolves before Christmas.
"It's been a good run," Woodson said, "but we've got a long way to go."