NEW YORK — After reaching a milestone, Carmelo Anthony got to enjoy a fourth-quarter rest Thursday.
The Knicks forward poured in 29 points and became the 50th player in NBA history to accumulate 19,000 career points, leading New York to a 117-86 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden.
Anthony accomplished the feat in the first quarter with his 15th point, and he sat out the end of the rout. He averaged 28.7 points in January as the Knicks posted their best month of the season, 10-6.
New York (19-27) earned its second consecutive one-sided and wire-to-wire win. The Knicks, who defeated the Boston Celtics 114-88 Tuesday, are 4-3 on their eight-game homestand, with the Miami Heat set to visit the Garden on Saturday.
The Cavaliers (16-30) lost for the third game in a row and for the seventh time in 10. They were led by guard Kyrie Irving, who scored 24 points. Guard Dion Waiters scored 21 points off the Cleveland bench. He is the highest-scoring reserve in the Eastern Conference at 14.5 points a game.
With center Andrea Bargnani and forwards Kenyon Martin and Amar’e Stoudemire out due to injuries, Knicks coach Mike Woodson employed a three-guard starting lineup. Point guards Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni joined J.R. Smith in the backcourt.
The “small ball” formula worked, as Felton and Prigioni acted as the distributors and Smith provided the scoring. Felton and Prigioni combined for 13 assists, and Smith poured in 19 points. Rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. was the first guard off the Knicks’ bench, and he contributed a season-best 29 points.
Smith made the most of his 10th start in an inconsistent season. The 28-year-old shooting guard shot at least 50 percent from the floor for the third time in four games, going 8-for-16 Thursday.
“I am getting more shots up,” Smith said. “You can never shoot enough basketballs.”
Woodson liked the offensive and defensive mix his three-guard lineup gave him.
“J.R. gives you offense, and Kyrie (Irving) is tough to deal with for anybody,” Woodson said. “I thought Pablo got up and forced the pressure early, and he maintained throughout the whole game.
“It is hard to guard that kid (Irving) one-on-one. We got back on transition and we built up the wall which supported Pablo.”
Cleveland never put together a sustainable run. The Cavaliers trailed 81-65 heading into the fourth quarter, then were outscored by 15 in the last period.
The Knicks took their biggest lead of the first half, 58-29, when Anthony sank the second of two free throws with 4:23 remaining. Hardaway came off the bench to score six points to help the Knicks take a 60-36 halftime advantage.
“They hit us in the mouth and things became easy for them in the second and third quarters,” Irving said. “We have to play with more fire, especially starting off the game.”
Anthony poured in 18 first-quarter points and Smith added 11 to help the Knicks to a 38-21 lead. That was the most points New York has scored in the first quarter this season. Anthony was 5-for-10 from the floor and 6-for-7 from the line in the quarter.
NOTES: Knicks G Tim Hardaway tied the single-game team record for 3-pointers by a rookie with six. He shares the mark with Nate Robinson and Toney Douglas. … The Knicks recalled C Cole Aldrich, G Toure’ Murry and F Jeremy Tyler from Erie of the Development League after they practiced with them on Wednesday, an off-day for the Knicks. … The Cavaliers’ bench began the night ranked second in the Eastern Conference and sixth in the NBA in scoring, averaging 36.6 points a game. The unit scored 36 points against the Knicks. … Cleveland F Anderson Varejao missed his second straight game due to a hyperextended left knee. … Hardaway was selected to play in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend. … Both teams wore warm-up tops with a horse displayed on the front in celebration of Chinese New Year — the year of the horse. … Thursday’s matchup featured two players who graduated from New Jersey high school powerhouse St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, Knicks G J.R. Smith and Cavaliers F Tristan Thompson. … Denver Broncos defensive back Champ Bailey was at the game.
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