The New York Knicks are off to their best start in 13 years, and Carmelo Anthony's inspired play is one of the key reasons.
Stunning success from beyond the arc and impressive depth are also playing major roles.
Anthony and the Knicks look to improve to 3-0 Monday night by sweeping this home-and-home set in Philadelphia, where they've won four of five against the 76ers.
New York hasn't enjoyed such a start to a season since 1999-2000.
Anthony helped get things started Friday, scoring 30 points with 10 rebounds while hitting half of his eight 3-pointers in a 104-84 win over Miami. He followed that by making 10 of 18 field goals to finish with 27 points in Sunday's 100-84 victory against Philadelphia (1-1).
While the five-time All-Star is having a major impact offensively, he also added three steals and two blocks against the 76ers - even diving into the stands in an attempt to save a ball he swatted away.
"It's really contagious when you see your star player going out there, diving in the crowd, giving up open shots, going for loose balls. It really filters throughout the team," swingman J.R. Smith said. "So as long as he keeps doing it, I think everybody won't have a problem doing it."
Smith is doing his part offensively, totaling 31 points, while Raymond Felton has managed 25 and Jason Kidd 24, giving Anthony some help with Amare Stoudemire out.
"I think when you share the basketball it becomes contagious, and guys, they feed into it," coach Mike Woodson said. "And the fact that we have so many guys that can make shots, you don't know who's going to get you on any given night."
That includes impressive shooting from beyond the arc, where New York has hit 30 of 63 after making 33.6 percent last season - 13th in the Eastern Conference.
Steve Novak has connected of 7 of his 13 attempts from long range, while Smith went 4 of 5 as the Knicks made 11 3-pointers against the 76ers.
Four of the previous five meetings at the Wells Fargo Center have been decided by five points or fewer, including an 82-79 New York win March 21 as Stoudemire scored 21 to offset a 10-point performance from Anthony.
The Sixers are also dealing with a knee injury to their best big man, with Andrew Bynum still unable to play. Now, they'll be without guard Jason Richardson after he suffered a sprained left ankle when he stepped on a cameraman behind the baseline at New York.
Philadelphia will hope Monday's defensive effort more closely resembles its season opener. The 76ers limited the Nuggets to 37.5 percent from the field and 4 for 18 beyond the arc in an 84-75 win Wednesday, but allowed the Knicks to shoot 50.6 percent.
They may also need to be better with the ball after giving it away 18 times Sunday.
"I think we turned the ball over too much and we were definitely out of sync," said forward Thaddeus Young, who had 16 points.
Six of those turnovers belonged to Jrue Holiday, who shot 11 for 18 from the floor - 5 for 6 from 3-point range - to finish with 27 points and seven assists.
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