Knicks thwart Thunder in Anthony’s return to New York
NEW YORK — Making a grand return to Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, Carmelo Anthony drew mostly cheers from a crowd that appreciated his nearly seven-year stint with the New York Knicks.
Still, there were scattered jeers for a prime-time scorer — seventh in team history — who nonetheless never delivered New York the playoff success the fans hoped for.
Michael Beasley, on the other hand?
Beasley had 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field to lead six Knicks in double figures as New York spoiled Anthony’s MSG return with a 111-96 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In Anthony’s first game back in MSG since being traded during the offseason for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second-round draft pick, he finished with 12 points — including zero in the second half — on 5-of-18 shooting.
Anthony, a career 25-point-per-game scorer who averaged 24.7 points during his almost seven-year stint with the Knicks, finished below 20 points for the ninth time in 11 games.
Anthony received a mostly warm reception from the MSG crowd during a highlight video played during introductions. While there were loud cheers for Anthony, who had little playoff success in his time with the Knicks, there was also a smattering of boos.
“The video montage caught me by surprise,” Anthony said. “I wasn’t expecting it. I was waiting for my name to be called. First and foremost, I want to thank (Knicks executives) Scott Perry and Steve Mills for making the gesture. That goes a long way.”
When the crowd wasn’t raining love on Anthony, they were giving Beasley his just due.
With Kristaps Porzingis sidelined with left knee soreness, Beasley carried the heavy scoring load for the Knicks. Beasley had eight points in the first quarter on 3-of-3 shooting, including 2 for 2 from 3-point range, and second in the second quarter. He truly came alive in the third, scoring 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting, with 4 of 5 free throws.
“Mike has been fantastic,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said after his team won for the fourth straight game and fifth time in six games. “He is engaged in practice, he talks with the guys, he is a smart basketball player. He really understands the game. Some of that stuff he does is effortless.
“He had a fantastic game.”
Courtney Lee had 20 points and McDermott added 13 off the bench to lead the Knicks, who moved to a season-high three games above .500.
Jarrett Jack had 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for New York, which had seven players score nine or more points. The Knicks shot 14 for 23 from 3-point range.
“Jarrett made some good passes out of some high and pick-and-roll situations,” Hornacek said. “(Michael) Beasley, obviously, was scoring. I think the guys made some great extra passes; I was glad to see us make a bunch of 3s.”
Russell Westbrook had 25 points to lead the Thunder, who were outscored 31-23 in the fourth quarter.
Paul George added 18 points — but had a plus-minus ratio of negative-20 — for Oklahoma City, which shot just 42 percent from the field and 60 percent from the free-throw line.
New York (16-13) took an eight-point lead early in the third quarter before Oklahoma City tied the score at 56 with just under eight minutes left in the quarter. The Knicks then seized control late in the quarter to take a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter.
New York fell behind by five late in the first half before making a 17-6 run to take a 50-44 halftime lead after holding Oklahoma City to 38 percent shooting in the first half.
“It was a playoff atmosphere,” Beasley said. “Those guys came to play, but we had to take care of business.”
For the Knicks, it may have been a particularly electric atmosphere. But for Anthony, it was even more.
“(I’m) somebody who wanted to be here, came here, did what he had to do night in and night out, stuck with it through good times and bad times,” he said. “I was trying to be professional during my seven years, and I had hopes and dreams of winning a championship here. I have always been a part of this culture.
“Playing with the Knicks is deeper than basketball when it comes to me and this city.”
NOTES: New York snapped a four-game losing streak to the Thunder, though the Knicks claimed a 66-64 lead in the all-time series. Oklahoma City beat New York 105-84 on Oct. 19 in their first matchup of the season. ... Knicks SG Tim Hardaway Jr., who has been out since Nov. 29 with a lower left leg stress injury, is expected to be evaluated Tuesday. ... After finishing a three-game road trip, Oklahoma City returns home Monday to face Denver and kick off a three-game home swing. ... The Knicks head back on the road Monday for a game at Charlotte.