|New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) leaps to block Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams (8) despite a hand grab by Nets forward Reggie Evans (30) in the third quarter of their NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, December 19, 2012. Photo by Ray Stubblebine, Reuters.
NEW YORK - Carmelo Anthony returned from a two-game absence with a sprained left ankle by scoring 31 points to power the New York Knicks over the Brooklyn Nets 100-86 on Wednesday in an matchup of NBA rivals.
Anthony injured his ankle in a fall last week in a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers and sat out last Saturday's victory over Cleveland and a 109-96 home loss on Monday to former teammate Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets.
Tyson Chandler added 16 points and 12 rebounds for New York while J.R. Smith scored 19 points in support of Anthony, who made 12 of his 22 shots.
The Nets led 61-57 before the Knicks closed the third quarter with an 18-6 run to seize a 75-67 advantage.
"Right now we're playing in a great rhythm," Anthony said. "Guys are trusting each other, making the extra pass, and we're making some great shots."
New York's defense kept the Nets to 38 points in the second half.
"The last couple games, we thought we had been slipping on defense," Anthony said. "We did it tonight on defense. We locked down in the second half and got some points and we won."
The Knicks, missing injured star Amare Stoudemire, improved to 19-6, the top record in the Eastern Conference, and have lost only once in 12 home games. Brooklyn fell to 13-12, six games behind New York in the Atlantic division.
Joe Johnson led the Nets with 17 points while Deron Williams added 16 points and 10 assists and Brook Lopez scored 16 points and contributed 10 rebounds for Brooklyn, which lost for the eighth time in 10 games.
The Manhattan-based Knicks and the Nets, who moved to New York from New Jersey earlier this year, met for the third time in 24 days, with the Knicks having won two of the three, and their last meeting set for January 21.
"I think the NBA was trying to get it over with quick, setting us up like this -- three times in the first two months," Anthony said. "They are not going nowhere. We're not going nowhere. This will be here for a long, long time."
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