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Anthony sprains ankle in Knicks' win

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- The jokes about Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni and his team's woeful defense paused. So did the buzz at Madison Square Garden, where Carmelo Anthony's offensive dominance again stunned a high-profile opponent.

All the noise stopped for a moment when Anthony went down with what looked to be an ugly ankle injury midway through the third quarter of the New York Knicks' 116-107 win over the Lakers on Thursday night.

The Knicks later reported Anthony's injury was just a sprained left ankle, though it appeared to be worse when the ankle twisted under the New York forward after Lakers center Dwight Howard fouled him on a drive to the basket. The announcement created a huge sigh of relief for the Knicks, who know their championship hopes could be badly damaged if Anthony were lost for an extended period.

So, while the crowd at the Garden remained mostly more subdued the rest of the night without knowing the extent of Anthony's injury, the Knicks were able to savor another impressive win.

Anthony scored 30 points before he left, including an eye-popping 22 during the Knicks' 41-point first quarter. Raymond Felton added 19 points and eight assists for New York.

"I just took a hard fall," Anthony said, who was declared day-to-day. "It was one of them awkward falls. My ankle is a little sore right now. That's it."

Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 31 points, but he went nearly two quarters without scoring as the Knicks built a 26-point lead at one time.

The Lakers (9-14) absorbed another difficult defeat, with former Knicks coach D'Antoni getting humbled in his return to New York.

Los Angeles lost its fourth straight and sixth in its last seven games, all while missing injured forward Pau Gasol. Along the way, the Lakers gave up 68 points in the first half, two days after D'Antoni snapped at a reporter for asking if the notoriously offensive-minded coach's team practiced defense before Tuesday's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I mean, Carmelo was unbelievable," D'Antoni said of Anthony's impressive first quarter. "When Melo gets like that, that's Melo."

The Knicks (17-5) survived without Anthony after thriving with him.

The Lakers closed within seven on an off-balance 3-pointer from Bryant with 4:48 left in the game, the first time they'd been within single digits since late in the first quarter. However, the Knicks answered with five straight points, including a big 3-pointer from J.R. Smith (18 points) to get the lead back to 111-99.

The Lakers sliced their deficit to 113-107 after Metta World Peace drove for a layup and a foul with 1:27 left, but the Knicks ran out the clock, hitting three of four free throws from there.

"We scored enough to kind of get back in the game, but we didn't get totally back in it," said D'Antoni, who dropped to 4-9 as the Lakers' coach.

As the NBA world tuned in to see a battle between Bryant, the league's top scorer, and Anthony, the NBA's second-ranked scorer, the Knicks quickly turned it into a mismatch.

Anthony scored New York's first eight points, and the Knicks led 41-27 after the first quarter and 68-49 at the half.

"I was zoned in. I was locked in," Anthony said. "Tonight was one of those games where I had that feeling."

Bryant posted 13 points in the first, but he failed to score again until there was 4:06 left in the third.

After the game, a bemused Bryant took New York reporters to task for "putting the hammer on" Anthony last season. Bryant said the difference for Anthony, who has thrived under Knicks coach Mike Woodson since D'Antoni's departure from New York, is that he's now "in an environment where they celebrate and encourage him to be who he is" as a shooter.

Bryant called Anthony a friend and said last year the Knicks forward became "gun-shy" under criticism that he was selfish.

"'What the hell are you doing?'" Bryant remembered telling Anthony, adding that he told him to play his game. "Now you guys are all celebrating him for doing what he's always done. It's funny. God bless you guys."

Anthony drove hard to the lane with 6:54 left in the third when Howard intercepted him, knocking him to the ground. After the crowd went quiet, then chanted "M-V-P," Anthony eventually got back up. He stayed in the game to make one of two free throws and hung in for one more possession before heading to the locker room.

New York shot an absurd 73.9 percent (17 of 23) from the field in the first quarter. At one point in the second quarter, the Knicks connected on four consecutive 3-pointers, taking a 58-32 lead with 7:21 left on Rasheed Wallace's long-range basket.

NOTES: D'Antoni told reporters Thursday morning at the Lakers' shootaround that he had no bitterness about his time in New York and his comments in an ESPN Los Angeles story last month that he "shouldn't have gone to New York" were in reference to leaving then-Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash. "I shouldn't have left Nash in the sense that he's special as a player," D'Antoni said. "You've got to nurture that. But New York was great for me." ... Now with the Lakers, Nash is expected to be out at least a few more weeks due to a fractured left leg. He said he was running the past day and a half and responding well. ... Former New York Yankees center fielder and current musician Bernie Williams played an instrumental version of the national anthem on his guitar and received a loud ovation. ... Former Knicks center Patrick Ewing was at the game, and he rose to acknowledge the standing ovation he received.

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