With Anthony back, Knicks cruise past Magic

Dave Buscema, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Carmelo Anthony returned to help fill out the New York's injury-riddled lineup and contribute to its second straight win, but the Knicks emerged with another injury to monitor.
J.R. Smith led the Knicks with 22 points, and Anthony returned from a knee injury to score 21 in a 106-94 win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. However, the Knicks sat Iman Shumpert in the second half after the forward tweaked his knee and got nervous when he heard it "pop," though he later said he was all right.
Anthony, whose right knee injury led to a prolonged absence, helped the Knicks' revamped lineup get off to a good start, scoring seven points in the first quarter.
"I had big-time relief on him making the first shot," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "He has been solid the whole time since I took over. He is doing all of the right things for us to win basketball games."
Shumpert felt even bigger relief when he realized his injury was not similar to the one that required ACL surgery and forced him to miss the first 2 1/2 months of the season.
"Last time I felt it pop, I was out eight months," Shumpert said. "I was nervous and more scared than anything.
"They said if they needed me, I could go back out, but they didn't need me, so I rested," Shumpert added after the Knicks led wire-to-wire.
The Knicks, who dropped the first four games of a five-game road trip before salvaging the finale Monday at Utah, backed up that victory with a home win over the hapless Magic (18-51).
New York (40-26) was again without injured center Tyson Chandler and started a small lineup with two point guards, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni, and swingman Shumpert playing up front along with Anthony and forward Kenyon Martin.
Orlando was also without its starting center, as Nikola Vucevic was out due to an illness, it was announced shortly before the game. The Magic lost for the fifth straight time, the fifth time this year they've had a losing streak of at least five games.
Tobias Harris and Andrew Nicholson led Orlando with 14 points apiece. On a night when the Magic's starters produced just 40 points, including a combined 10 from Jameer Nelson and Arron Affalo, the bench provided the majority of the scoring.
"It happens in the NBA -- (there's) 82 games," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said of the starters' struggles. "It was great to see 54 points off our bench. Those guys stepped up."
The Knicks were in control throughout and held on after a brief spurt from Orlando in the fourth quarter. The Magic trimmed what had been a 17-point deficit with a late 14-4 run. Nicholson scored four straight points, including a layup that cut the Knicks' lead to 97-88 with 3:17 left.
However, the Knicks countered with the next four points, including a crowd-pleasing slam by James White with less than two minutes remaining to all but seal the game.
Up by 15 points at halftime, the Knicks expanded the lead to 83-65 entering the fourth quarter. Smith scored seven points in the third, including two 3-pointers, capping a 13-4 run with four straight points. That gave the Knicks a 76-60 lead with 2:27 left in the third quarter.
When the Knicks are hitting their 3-pointers, the opposing defense gets an additional challenge, Vaughn said.
"Makes it very tough because guarding (Anthony) one-on-one is a task in itself, and then when you have guys around him shooting the 3 at a high level, it makes it tough to defend," Vaughn said.
The Knicks took a 51-46 lead into halftime after leading by as much as 15 in the first quarter.
Anthony settled in nicely in the first quarter and had 14 points by halftime, shooting 5-for-9 from the field at that point. He maintained his knee held up fine.
"It felt good for the most part," he said. "At the beginning of the game, I wanted to try to see if I could do everything movement-wise, and it felt pretty good. I was pain-free tonight."
NOTES: Anthony had missed six of the Knicks' previous eight games. The forward initially delayed having the knee drained, but he did so last Thursday. ... The Knicks' frontcourt, already without Chandler, who has missed the past four games and is expected to be out for a week because of his strained neck, also was missing forward Kurt Thomas. Thomas has played limited minutes, but he could have received more with Chandler, Amar'e Stoudemire and Rasheed Wallace out. Thomas (foot) could miss as much as a month, according to the team. ... Vucevic had played in all of the Magic's 68 previous games, the only Orlando player to do so. ... Spike Lee celebrated his birthday at the Garden, and the Knicks acknowledged him with a "Happy birthday" message on the scoreboard screen.

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