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’Melo catches fire in fourth

Carmelo Anthony scores 27 in win over Bucks.

Don’t tell Carmelo Anthony that mid-season games aren’t something to get nervous about because, although being a seven-year vet, there were times when it appeared the occasion of it being his maiden Knick game got the best of him.

Luckily for Knicks fans, Anthony and Co. got the best of the Milwaukee Bucks in a 114-108 win, on a night when the Knicks honored legends of its past and reveled in the acquisition of its newest star. Anthony finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds, and two steals in his debut – although he missed his first three shots, finishing with 10-of-25 shooting.

The Knicks [29-26] got off to a fast start on both ends of the floor, built a nice double-digit lead, and then held off a competitive Bucks squad for the win. And they even played some defense to keep Milwaukee [22-35] at bay. While building a nice 10-point lead in the first quarter, New York held Milwaukee to 38 percent shooting, including 1-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc.

The Knicks’ bench has been much maligned this season -- and will probably get seared even more now that the Denver Nuggets gashed them of their depth -- but for one night the reserves stepped up. No reserve was bigger than Toney Douglas who finished with 23 points, including nine in the third quarter. He also knocked down a crucial three with less than three minutes remaining and a huge offensive rebound in the waning seconds to keep the Bucks at arm’s length. Douglas, a backup point guard, earned most of his minutes alongside starting point guard Chauncey Billups and the two worked effortlessly off one another to baffle the Bucks’ backcourt. Billups, who was also making his Knick debut, tallied 21 points, six rebounds, and eight assists and shot 12-of-12 from the foul line.

Not to be outshined was Amar’e Stoudemire, who almost anonymously did his damage with 19 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Stoudemire, who was the franchise cornerstone for all of his brief Knick tenure so far, gladly shared the spotlight with another superstar – ala his Phoenix Suns days – and efficiently played option 1A to Anthony’s option 1. About the only downer of the night was Stoudemire receiving his 15th technical foul late in the fourth quarter. If he gets one more, he’ll be suspended for one game.

While both said it’ll take a while to gel, there won’t be much time, as they get a real test when they play at the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic and home for the New Orleans Hornets in three of their next five games.

What went right ...

1 Settling in — Carmelo Anthony will eventually settle into his role, but even a seven-year veteran can suffer newbie jitters in a return home. The newest Knick pressed early in a 114-108 win over Milwaukee, clanking open jumpers and picking up two first-quarter fouls. He still finished with a nice stat line of 10 rebounds and 27 points on 10-of-25 shooting.

2 A little defense — Many might have snickered when Anthony proclaimed he wants the Knicks to “focus on defense,” but there he was harassing wing players and bodying the bigs under the glass for position. ’Melo might’ve had an off shooting night but his effort was great on the defensive end, as evidenced by two key steals.

3 Making of a legend — On Legends Night at the Garden, Anthony is one in the making. He scored 11 fourth-quarter points including a dagger with 26 seconds left after Amar’e Stoudemire fouled out.

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