NEW YORK -- Before the game, Denver Nuggets coach George Karl lavished praise on the New York Knicks, saying they possess a "mad-dog personality" and an offense that scares him. They showed exactly what he was talking about in the fourth quarter.
The Knicks were down eight points when the third quarter ended, but they rattled off 12 consecutive points en route to a 112-106 win.
The Madison Square Garden crowd increasingly fueled the Knicks with full-throated chants of "DE-FENSE" and roars on each basket at the other end.
Carmelo Anthony, who missed the previous two games with a lacerated finger, returned against his former team and former coach -- who has a history of offering critiques of Anthony's play. The veteran forward led the Knicks with 34 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Anthony entered midway through the quarter after getting into foul trouble late in the third.
Aside from Anthony, it was yet another balanced effort from the Knicks (15-5), who moved to 8-0 at home after finally shaking off the persistent Nuggets. Jason Kidd had 17 points and seven assists, Tyson Chandler added 15 points and 12 rebounds, and another former Nugget, J.R. Smith, contributed 15 points and nine rebounds.
Ty Lawson led the Nuggets (10-11) with 23 points. Former Knick Danilo Gallinari -- who was part of the blockbuster trade that sent Anthony to New York -- scored 21, including 17 in the second half.
Denver, playing the third game of a five-game road trip, lost for the fifth time in seven games.
But the Knicks finished a stretch of playing four games in five days with a 3-1 record, despite many of them arriving back from Chicago at 5 a.m. Sunday after some travel delays.
"They could have come out tonight and not performed because of fatigue," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said, after showing some extra emotion at game's end. "They didn't do that. They stepped it up."
The Knicks dominated the fourth quarter, breaking away midway through the period.
Nuggets forward Cory Brewer scored four straight points to open the fourth, giving Denver an 88-80 lead, its biggest since the first quarter.
The Knicks then went on a 17-4 run, with Steve Novak burying two 3-pointers and Chandler dunking off a feed from Kidd as the fans at the Garden began to roar. The crowd grew louder when Ronnie Brewer took a feed from Kidd for a slam after the point guard snared an offensive rebound.
A few moments later, Anthony capped off a personal run of five straight points with a 3-pointer for a 97-90 New York lead.
"That had nothing to do with it," Anthony said, when asked if his intensity in the fourth quarter had to do with the opponent. "I ain't got no hard feelings towards Denver. ... It is a matter of us, and me, not wanting to lose on our home court and protecting our home court.
"... It is another game on my schedule this season. The emotion is gone."
The Knicks would not allow the Nuggets to get closer than four the rest of the way.
"We have (to play) like we have been doing all year," Gallinari said. "We have to learn how to finish games better."
After the game, the Knicks saluted Kidd, the 39-year-old point guard, for putting up with the travel headaches -- as well as some literal ones -- after his pump-fakes drew a pair of hard fouls to the head in the second quarter. Kidd emerged at halftime warmups sporting a New York Rangers hockey helmet.
"I've known him for years," Anthony said of Kidd, who had six assists and four points in the fourth quarter. "He steps out on the court, we kind of forget he's 40 years old."
Gallinari scored 14 points in the third quarter to help the Nuggets erase a three-point halftime deficit and push them to an 84-80 lead entering the fourth.
Anthony, whose defensive commitment has so often been questioned by his old coach, was called for a foul and a technical on Gallinari in the last minute of the third. Anthony played tight defense on Andre Iguodala on the Nuggets' next possession. Too tight, according to the official, who called Anthony for his fourth foul, though replays didn't appear to show a foul. Anthony waved his hand dismissively and was taken out of the game.
Anthony wasn't announced as starting for the first time in the past three games until shortly before tip-off, but he looked fine in scoring 17 points before the break to lead the Knicks to a 61-58 lead. He said afterwards that he was afraid the finger would start bleeding or his five stitches would come loose, but they did not.
NOTES: Karl continued his half-critique/half-compliment style when discussing his former star forward, Anthony, before the game. He followed a familiar theme of saying Anthony had the talent to win a championship and would because "he's going to figure out that scoreboard and numbers and stat sheets aren't important, it's what the team scoreboard is and the intangibles, in the end, that make winners champions." Asked if Anthony, who has been praised for playing his best overall basketball this year, had somehow been too focused on individual numbers while with the Nuggets, Karl paused briefly before responding, "I mean, I can say that about everybody, except, maybe, Chauncey Billups and Nate McMillan, in my career." ... Asked who has emerged as the victor of the blockbuster trade that sent Anthony to the Knicks nearly two years ago, Karl said it was a "win-win." ... Referencing the NHL lockout, Kidd joked he grabbed the hockey helmet because "they're not using 'em, so I thought we would put that on for compression purposes." ... Knicks big men Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby sat out, each due to a sore foot.