And not much has changed now that he’s the new leading man in Los Angeles.
In his first game back in the Big Apple as a rival coach, D’Antoni was serenaded with a chorus of boos Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, as his Lakers fell 116-107 to the surging Knicks, who have looked nothing like the team he resigned from less than a year ago under his former right hand man, new head coach Mike Woodson. The first-place Knicks improved to 17-5 and 20-1 at MSG with Woodson at the helm.
The pregame focus had D’Antoni and Woodson as the backdrop for the primetime TNT nationally televised matchup, but once the game began, all the attention turned to lucky No. 7 – Carmelo Anthony. Anthony scored 22 of his 30 points in the first quarter before spraining his left ankle in the third.
“I wanted to beat the Lakers, especially protecting our home court,” said Anthony, who is day-to-day. “It had nothing to do with Mike (D’Antoni). I wanted to protect our home court and win the basketball game.
“I was zoned in,” he added of his hot start, which set an NBA season high to date. “I was locked in. Tonight was one of those games where I had that feeling.”
On the play, Anthony was fouled by Dwight Howard on a drive to the basket. His left leg bent back awkwardly. Anthony initially tried to walk it off and stay in the game, but then departed for the locker room and did not return.
“You get off to a good start like that … we were clicking on all cylinders,” said Woodson, who noted that Anthony has a “slight sprain.”
Of Anthony, Woodson said: “He was incredible. He played 22 minutes and had 30 points. I say that is incredible.”
The Knicks improved to a perfect 9-0 at home and have won eight of nine to surge to the top of the conference standings.
The Lakers dropped their fourth straight and have lost six of seven to fall to 4-9 under D’Antoni. Still without All-Stars Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, the Lakers were never really in the game until the final two minutes.
L.A. cut what was a 26-point deficit to 113-107 with 1:27 remaining, but the Knicks took a minute off the clock as Tyson Chandler and company grabbed offensive rebounds to shrink the clock to 18 seconds.
The Knicks made 22 of their first 30 shots and started 8 of 10 behind the arc as the lead ballooned to 58-32. It was 68-49 at the break and although Anthony was missed down the stretch, New York was never really tested in the fourth quarter.
Knicks point guard Raymond Felton scored 19 points, and J.R. Smith and Chandler added 18 apiece.
Kobe Bryant had 31 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers. Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest) finished with 23 points and Dwight Howard had 20.
“Obviously, we gotta get our guys back and right now we’re struggling and hopefully tomorrow we can start our way back a little bit,” D’Antoni said.
As for the Knicks, they return to action Saturday night at home, when they welcome Cleveland to the Garden.
NOTES: The Knicks entered the game leading the league in 3-point attempts per game (29.3)…Playing in place of the injured Nash, Chris Duhon, a former Knick, went 1-for-6 for three points and four assists…The 41 first quarter points are the most by the Knicks in any quarter this season…Former Yankee great Bernie Williams played the National Anthem on guitar…Former Knick Patrick Ewing, actor Ben Stiller and musician John Legend sat courtside. Ewing, who set the Knicks’ all-time scoring record on this date in 1993 against the Lakers, received a huge ovation in the first quarter.