NEW YORK (AP) — Carmelo Anthony was really sharp when he was in, and the New York Knicks were even better after he went out.
Good enough to be mistaken for one of the NBA’s best.
“I thought we were playing against the Spurs,” Denver guard Ty Lawson said. “They know they pass to one side, kick, kick, and it opens 3s. It was just a tough night for us.”
Anthony scored 31 points in three quarters, then watched from the bench as the Knicks ran away from his old team in the fourth for a 117-90 victory over the Nuggets on Friday night.
J.R. Smith added 10 of his 13 points in the fourth. He also threw the pass of the game during the decisive spurt when he went behind the back to Jeremy Tyler, who scored while being fouled.
Amare Stoudemire finished with 17 points for the Knicks, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Tyler had 12 points and 11 rebounds as the Knicks shot 56.5 percent from the field, one of their best performances of the season.
“Everybody played their part tonight,” Anthony said. “It was a great team win and we want to build off that.”
The Knicks were 13 of 20 for 34 points in the final quarter and shot 64 percent while scoring 67 points in the second half.
It was a surprisingly easy victory during a difficult season for the Knicks, who figured they would be competing for championships by now when they paid a heavy price to acquire Anthony from the Nuggets three years ago this month.
Instead, they are only 20-30, currently outside the playoff picture and giving Denver hope that the first-round pick the Knicks still owe them this summer from that Anthony deal could be in the lottery.
Lawson scored 24 points for the Nuggets, who had their two-game winning streak stopped and fell back to .500 at 24-24. They committed 24 turnovers that led to 27 points.
The Knicks’ latest slump had sparked renewed reports that coach Mike Woodson’s job could be in jeopardy, and he spent most of his pregame news conference repeating his confidence in himself and his team. He still believes the Knicks can be a playoff team, a thought only imaginable because they reside in the Eastern Conference.
But they showed Friday how effective they can be when they get balanced scoring beyond Anthony, which has happened infrequently this season, and by the end of the night Woodson was talking about how his Knicks would be difficult for powerful Oklahoma City to handle on Sunday.
Then again, they lost to the league-worst Milwaukee Bucks this week, so nothing is certain.
“You know what, you can’t change the past,” center Tyson Chandler said when asked if he was frustrated that the Knicks couldn’t play like this more often.
“So I would say more so that it gives us the opportunity to rally, because we see what it’s going take for us to win. We’ve just got to put more nights like this together.”
Leading by seven in the third quarter, New York began to open a gap when Anthony made a jumper, Chandler scored and Anthony nailed a 3-pointer to make it 62-48 with about 8 1/2 minutes remaining in the period.
Tim Hardaway Jr. made a 3-pointer and Anthony converted a three-point play for a quick six points in the final minute as the lead grew to 83-66. Smith had three straight baskets in the fourth, the latter two from behind the arc, to push the lead to 102-77.
The Knicks helped hand the Nuggets a 26-20 lead after one, committing eight turnovers that led to 14 points. But the much-maligned Raymond Felton scored all of his nine points in the second, and New York scored the final nine points of the period for a 50-44 halftime lead.
“I think at the end of the second quarter, when it was 44-44, we got five turnovers in a row and couldn’t get a shot up and that kind of pushed their lead,” Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried said. “They got the lead and after that I guess it was curtains.”
Felton also had eight assists.
NOTES: The Knicks’ visit to Oklahoma City for a nationally televised matchup features Kevin Durant and Anthony, the NBA’s top scorers. Anthony missed the Thunder’s Christmas Day rout of the Knicks with a sprained ankle. … The Knicks shot a season-high 57.1 percent against Brooklyn on Dec. 5.
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