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Anthony, Knicks hold off Bucks

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- On the night before Halloween, the New York Knicks survived quite a scare from the Milwaukee Bucks in the season opener for both teams Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

New York held a huge lead in the first half, then hung on for a 90-83 win over the scrappy Bucks, who were playing with 11 new faces from last season.

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 19 points, including four decisive points late in the game. Anthony, who led the NBA in scoring last season and finished third in the MVP voting, also grabbed 10 rebounds in 37 minutes.

Reserve guard Gary Neal led the revamped Bucks with 16 points. He was thrust into action after starting point guard Brandon Knight left the game 1:45 into the first quarter with a strained right hamstring. Knight never returned.

The Bucks were already down one point guard before the game, as Luke Ridnour was scratched due to back spasms. The injuries hampered a Milwaukee roster that underwent the largest roster turnover in team history during the offseason.

Raymond Felton added 18 points for the Knicks, who started a small lineup that also included Iman Shumpert (16 points) and Pablo Prigioni (seven points, five assists, three steals).

The Knicks were without J.R. Smith, the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year last season, who is serving a five-game suspension for violating the league's anti-drug program.

The Bucks took their first lead of the game at 81-80 when John Henson hit the first of two free throws with 3:13 to play, but the Knicks closed out the win with a 9-3 run.

"It's the NBA," Neal said, "there are no such things as moral victories. We lost, and we'll learn from it. You can't be on the road against a quality team like the Knicks and get down 15 to 20 points.

"We'll learn from it and continue to grow."

The decisive stretch started with a dunk from 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler, then a tip-in and offensive rebound from Anthony and another slam from Chandler with 26.1 left.

The Knicks center contributed 10 points and five blocked shots.

The Bucks squeezed back into the game in the third quarter after trailing by 25 at the half. They outscored the Knicks 33-18, shooting 62 percent from the field (13 of 21) in the quarter behind eight points from Zaza Pachulia, pulling to within 74-64.

"I thought their pressure picked up and we backed off a little bit and got sloppy with the ball," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "Last year we led the league in not turning the ball over. You have to give them credit for the pressure they applied in the second half."

The Knicks turned the ball over five times in the fourth quarter.

New York led 25-21 with 10:09 left in the half, then went on a 31-10 run to close out the half with as 56-31 lead. Anthony contributed eight of his 12 first-half points in the spurt.

"We were aggressive," Anthony said. "Our energy was up, and we were in the passing lanes. We were holding them to one shot and getting easy baskets.

"We had some lapses in that third quarter, and it came down to the last two minutes for us to pull the game out."

The blend of new players for the Bucks was evident in the first quarter. Milwaukee turned the ball over six times, contributing to the Knicks' 24-18 lead. Anthony was on the bench for most of the quarter with two fouls.

The opener was a difficult debut for New York's biggest offseason acquisition, 7-footer Andrea Bargnani. The Italian, who came over from the Toronto Raptors for Marcus Camby, Steve Novak and Quentin Richardson, looked out of rhythm in New York's half-court offense.

Bargnani scored only six points, grabbed two rebounds and committed three turnovers in 17 minutes.

"He is trying to give effort, and I have to help him," Woodson said. "It is the first game. He will be fine. I have to play him more. He will get his minutes, and he will be back to the way he is used to playing."

NOTES: One-third of the players on the Bucks' roster are from outside the United States. The five players -- Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Carlos Delfino (Argentina), Ersan Ilyasova (Turkey), Zaza Pachulia (Georgia) and Miroslav Raduljica (Serbia) -- are the fourth-most foreigners on an NBA roster this season, following the Spurs (10), Cavaliers and Timberwolves (six each). ... Woodson said he plans to platoon reserve PFs Amar'e Stoudemire (30) and Martin (35) this season, alternating their playing time. Stoudemire did not play Wednesday. ... The Knicks exercised their fourth-year contract option on Shumpert, who is entering his third season. He averaged 6.8 points last season. ... Woodson and first-year Bucks coach Larry Drew were teammates on the Kansas City Kings from 1981-86.
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