The Knicks played about as perfect a first half as they’ve done under head coach Mike Woodson’s watch, and used that as a springboard to hold on for a 116-107 win over the struggling Lakers.
But not all was perfect for the Knicks (17-5), as MVP candidate Carmelo Anthony was injured in the victory. Anthony, who tallied a team-high 30 points, hurt his lower left leg midway through the third quarter when he was fouled by Lakers’ big man Dwight Howard while attempting a layup. Anthony promptly missed the freebies, as he was favoring his left side, and left the floor shortly after to get checked on by head athletic trainer Roger Hinds.
Anthony, however, didn’t seem too worried afterward.
“I just took a hard fall. It was one of the awkward falls, [and] it’s just a little sore right now,” Anthony said. “They haven’t tested it yet. They did some manual stuff, [and] everything seemed good. It’s just real sore right now – ankle, knee, hip.”
The preliminary diagnosis for Anthony’s injury was a high ankle sprain,
with more details to follow after a battery of additional tests.
Anthony never returned to the game, but with the Knicks up by as much as 18 in the third quarter, his services were no longer needed. He did more than enough in the first half, however, tallying a season-high 22 points in the first quarter (8-of-9 from the floor, including three 3-pointers), as the Knicks collectively shot the lights out at the Garden. New York shot 74 percent from the field in the first quarter, en route to a 41-27 lead.
Anthony’s torrid shooting even impressed himself.
“I was zoned in. I was locked in. Tonight was one of those games where I had that feeling, [and] I wanted to get it going. My teammates were feeding off me,” Anthony said. “I wanted to beat the Lakers, especially because I wanted to protect our home court. … It had nothing to do with [former Knicks coach and current Lakers coach] Mike [D’Antoni].”
The Lakers (9-14) stayed feisty — as any team led by Kobe Bryant would — but the early deficit proved to be too much, as they only threatened late when the Knicks seemed to have lost some of their mojo after the Anthony injury.
Raymond Felton scored 10 of his 19 points in the first quarter, J.R. Smith had eight of his 18 and Steve Novak and Rasheed Wallace each added six points, as the Knicks rolled the Lakers to start the game.
“You get off to a good start like that, it’s fun. We were clicking on all cylinders and were also pretty good defensively,” Woodson said. “Anytime you have a Kobe on the floor and the big fella, Dwight [Howard], on the floor, they are going to make runs. But we were ready to step up [after the Anthony injury]. And for the most part, I thought we fought and withstood [Bryant].”
Not even Bryant’s game-high 31 points (nine in the fourth quarter) could lift the Lakers, as he battled a sore lower back and little support from his underlings most of the evening. Howard got off to a nice start — even if the Lakers weren’t running plays for him and his points were mainly coming off of the offensive glass. But that was about all the Lakers got as D’Antoni’s offense once again failed to get off the ground — undoubtedly to the delight of scorned Knicks’ fans who booed their former coach vociferously during pregame intros.
The Lakers made it a game in the final quarter, cutting the deficit to as little as four when Bryant made a ridiculous fall-away 3 with the shot clock winding down, but the Anthony-less Knicks held on, thanks to key offensive rebounds, and big shots from Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith to keep Los Angeles back at arm’s length.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.