NEW YORK — New York Knicks coach Derek Fisher said he wanted to reward shooting guard J.R. Smith with his first start of the season Sunday based on his work ethic in practice the day before.
Smith, usually the first man off the Knicks bench, responded with a season-high 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting, four rebounds, four assists and two steals in New York’s 109-93 win over the Denver Nuggets at Madison Square Garden.
Forward Carmelo Anthony also scored 28 points for the Knicks (3-8), who stopped their seven-game losing streak while reaching the century mark for the second straight game.
Denver (2-7) placed five players in double figures, led by shooting guard Arron Affalo’s 18 points. Point guard Ty Lawson added 17 points, power forward Kenneth Faried scored 16, small forward Wilson Chandler had 11 and forward Darrell Arthur had 10 points off the bench.
The Nuggets have lost seven of their last eight games.
With guard Iman Shumpert, the Knicks second-leading scorer, out with a right hip contusion suffered in Friday’s loss to Utah, Fisher had a choice of starting either Tim Hardaway Jr. or Smith.
“With Shump (Shumpert) out we could go either way,” said Fisher. “We thought J.R. could give us some punch with our offense, not only with his ability to make shots, but his ability to make plays.
“It started Saturday with J.R. He had a workout after practice yesterday for maybe 10 minutes. It was as intense and as hard as an individual player can work in the shooting session that I thought raised his level of play and intensity today.
“I think it is a great teaching lesson for all of our guys. The performance on the (Madison Square) Garden floor doesn’t start the day or night you play; they start the day or the week before.”
Denver guard Nate Robinson’s four-point play closed the Knicks’ lead to 89-80 with 8:55 to play, before the Knicks used a 10-2 run to move ahead 99-82 with 5:23 left.
Lawson scored 12 points in the third quarter to help Denver get to within 12 points, 86-74, after three quarters.
Anthony and Smith led a second-quarter blitz, scoring nine and eight points, respectively, when the Knicks outscored Denver 31-8 to take a commanding 62-39 halftime advantage.
“I wanted to be aggressive, but at the same time I didn’t want to force anything,” said Smith. “I tried to let the game come to me.
“A lot of times when you get shots up in the practice facility it is more technique. I did more game speed. I was cutting hard and taking shots I would take in the game and it transitioned over.”
Denver sank just one basket in the second quarter, scoring on Lawson’s layup at the buzzer.
The Nuggets were 1-of-14 from the field in the quarter, while committing 11 turnovers in the half.
“I remember some tough quarters, but I don’t remember experiencing having the last shot of the quarter be the only field goal,” said Denver coach Brian Shaw. “We got decent looks that we didn’t knock down.”
Affalo connected on four of five of his 3-pointers, but the Knicks closed the first quarter on a 10-4 run to tie it at 31-31. Smith and Anthony combined for eight points in the run.
The Knicks trailed after the first quarter for the seventh consecutive game.
NOTES: The Knicks started their sixth different lineup in 11 games. … F Carmelo Anthony’s team-leading 23.5 points per game is more than the combined total of New York’s next top scorers, Iman Shumpert (12.4) and F Amare Stoudemire (10.9). … Knicks coach Derek Fisher and Denver coach Brian Shaw were Lakers teammates from 1999-2003, winning three titles under then coach and current Knicks president Phil Jackson. … Denver G Randy Foye missed his second straight game with a right knee contusion.
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