Carmelo Anthony scored 31 points in three quarters, then watched from the bench as the Knicks ran away from his old team in the fourth for a 117-90 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.
J.R. Smith added 10 of his 13 points in the fourth. He also threw the pass of the game during the decisive spurt when he went behind the back to Jeremy Tyler, who scored while being fouled.
Amar’e Stoudemire finished with 17 points for the Knicks, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Tyler had 12 points and 11 rebounds as the Knicks shot 56.5 percent from the field, one of their best performances of the season.
It was a surprisingly easy victory during a difficult season for the Knicks, who figured they would be competing for championships by now when they paid a heavy price to acquire Anthony from the Nuggets three years ago this month.
Instead, they are only 20-30, currently outside the playoff picture and giving Denver hope that the first-round pick the Knicks still owe them this summer from that Anthony deal could be in the lottery.
Ty Lawson scored 24 points for the Nuggets, who had their two-game winning streak stopped and fell back to .500 at 24-24.
The Knicks’ latest slump had sparked renewed reports that coach Mike Woodson’s job could be in jeopardy, and he spent most of his pregame press conference repeating his confidence in himself and his team. He still believes the Knicks can be a playoff team, a thought only imaginable because they reside in the Eastern Conference.
But they showed Friday how effective they can be when they get balanced scoring beyond Anthony, which has happened infrequently this season.
Leading by seven in the third quarter, the Knicks began to open a gap when Anthony made a jumper, Tyson Chandler scored and Anthony nailed a 3-pointer to make it 62-48 with about 8½ minutes remaining in the period.
Tim Hardaway Jr. made a 3-pointer and Anthony converted a three-point play for a quick six points in the final minute as the lead grew to 83-66. Smith had three straight baskets in the fourth, the latter two from behind the arc, to push the lead to 102-77.
The Knicks helped hand the Nuggets a 26-20 lead after one, committing eight turnovers that led to 14 points. But the much-maligned Raymond Felton scored all of his nine points in the second, and the Knicks scored the final nine points of the period for a 50-44 halftime lead.