CARMELO ANTHONY scored 31 points in his return to the lineup, and the New York Knicks beat the visiting Brooklyn Nets, 100-86, on Wednesday night in the third meeting this season between the city rivals.
After two tight games in Brooklyn, the Knicks turned the first one at Madison Square Garden into a rout by dominating the second half. Anthony, who missed two games with a sprained left ankle, moved fine and shot well, though his scoring average against the Nets this season actually dropped to 37 points per game.
J.R. Smith added 19 points and Tyson Chandler had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks, who bounced back from their first home loss Monday to Jeremy Lin and the Rockets, improving to 11-1 at MSG.
Joe Johnson scored 17 points for the Nets, who have lost three straight and eight of 10. What once was a deadlock for the Atlantic Division lead after the first meeting is now a six-game advantage for the Knicks.
Deron Williams and Brook Lopez each had 16 points for Brooklyn.
The Nets won 96-89 in overtime on Nov. 26 in the rescheduled season opener that was postponed after Superstorm Sandy, and the Knicks pulled out a 100-97 victory on Dec. 11 behind Anthony's 45 points and Jason Kidd's tiebreaking three-pointer with 24 seconds left.
This one was only close for a half, the Knicks outscoring the Nets 48-38 in the final 24 minutes.
The game lacked the energy and nonstop crowd noise of the two matchups in Brooklyn. Perhaps this crowd just wasn't balanced enough, Brooklyn black hard to spot amid the rows of orange, thanks to a hat giveaway by the Knicks.
Or perhaps Knicks fans were just fatigued from recent visits from the Lakers and Lin, and didn't view a game against the Nets the same way the up-and-coming fan base in Brooklyn does when facing the more established franchise. Though they began to concede it was a rivalry after the two tense games at Barclays Center, Knicks players had previously said there wasn't really any, and wouldn't be until they had some meaningful postseason meetings.
The Knicks are still getting used to sharing their city, the Garden public address announcer accidentally saying Williams was checking in for New Jersey at one point.
But Anthony clearly gets up for the games against the team from his birthplace. He had his highest-scoring game of the season in the last meeting, Nets coach Avery Johnson saying before the game that "he kind of got away from us a little it in Game 2, is what I'll call it."
At Phoenix, Shannon Brown scored a season-high 26 points and the Suns routed the Bobcats, 121-104, Charlotte's league-worst 13th straight loss. Goran Dragic added 21 points and Jared Dudley had 20 for the Suns, who have won a season-best four straight.
* At Memphis, Zach Randolph had 15 points and 17 rebounds, Marc Gasol added 12 points and 12 rebounds, and the Grizzlies beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 90-80. Rudy Gay added 13 points for Memphis, which won its third straight. Mike Conley had 11 points and six assists, while Marreese Speights scored 10 points.
* At Indianapolis, reserve guard Gerald Green scored a season-high 21 points to help the Indiana Pacers beat the Utah Jazz, 104-84. Paul George had 20 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, and George Hill also scored 20 and had five assists for the Pacers, who matched their largest victory margin of the season and won for the fourth time in five games.
* At Toronto, DeMar DeRozan had 23 points, Alan Anderson scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and the Raptors beat the Detroit Pistons, 97-91, extending their winning streak to four games. Jose Calderon had 17 assists, one shy of his season high, and Jonas Valanciunas scored 12 points for the Raptors.
* At Boston, Paul Pierce scored 25 of his season-high 40 points in the second half, carrying the Celtics to a 103-91 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Rajon Rondo added 20 points and eight assists for the Celtics, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Jason Terry had 15 points and Kevin Garnett 12.
Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao, the league's leading rebounder, missed the game with a bruised right knee after he was hurt in Tuesday's home loss to Toronto. Tyler Zeller got his first career start and had 20 points for Cleveland.
* At Orlando, J.J. Redick scored 17 points and fellow reserve E'Twaun Moore had 15, leading the Magic to a 90-83 win over the Washington Wizards. Redick had four three-pointers in leading Orlando to its fourth straight win. Arron Afflalo had 15 points for the Magic.
Nene had 20 points off the bench for the Wizards, who lost their fifth in a row. Jordan Crawford added 19 points and six assists.
* At Atlanta, Kevin Durant set a season high with 41 points, and the Oklahoma City Thunder held off the Hawks, 100-92, for their 12th straight win. Russell Westbrook had 27 points - 21 in the first half - and 11 assists. Durant, who had 18 points in the fourth period, had 13 rebounds.
Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki, who has not played a game this season because he is recovering from surgery to his right knee, participated in his first full practice. Nowitzki said he may make his season debut "any time after Christmas."