NEW YORK – Carmelo Anthony was off to yet another special night.
The kind of night that results in 40, 45, maybe 50 points.
There’s no telling how many he would’ve finished with had he not gone down with a left ankle injury in the third quarter of the Knicks 116-107 victory over Mike D’Antoni and the Lakers at Madison Square Garden.
Anthony had already amassed 30 points in 22 minutes — the most by an NBA player in that span since 1995 — when he was fouled by Dwight Howard and landed awkwardly midway through the third.
So what might’ve happened had Anthony avoided the injury that has left him day-to-day?
“He’s exploding,” Knicks center Tyson Chandler said. “He would’ve for sure got to 40. After that, no telling. He still had a quarter and half to go and he already had 30. So I don’t think it’s a close game if Melo’s in the game. It was just an adjustment we had to make on the fly.”
Anthony picked up right where he left off in Tuesday’s win over the Nets when he went for a season-high 45 points.
He hit three 3-pointers right off the bat as the Knicks led 11-2 and by the time the first quarter was over, he had 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting as the Knicks led 41-27. By halftime, he had 26 points.
“I was zoned in,” Anthony said. “I was locked in. Tonight was one of those games where I had that feeling. I wanted to get it going and I had that feeling going early in the game. My teammates were feeding off of that.”
He was fouled by Howard at the 6:54 mark of the third period and landed awkwardly on the floor. After making 1-of-2 foul shots, he tried to walk it off but soon left the game for good.
“It is what it is,” he said. “It was a hard fould. I couldn’t catch my fall. It was an awkward foul. Right now I am sore.”
Anthony clashed with D’Antoni during the coach’s tenure in New York and when D’Antoni resigned last March, it was clear that Melo had won the power struggle.
New coach Mike Woodson immediately handed the team over to Anthony — while simultaneously demanding accountability from Anthony, Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire — and the Knicks are 35-11 in the regular season since, including a 17-5 record this year and a 9-0 record at the Garden.
“I wanted to beat them,” Anthony said. “I wanted to beat the Lakers, especially protecting our homecourt. It had nothing to do with Mike. I wanted to protect our home court and win the basketball game.”
D’Antoni was booed by the crowd at the game’s outset and serenaded with mocking chants late in the game.
He said he expected to be booed and praised Anthony for his brilliance.
“Carmelo was unbelievable in the first quarter,” he said. “When Melo gets going like that, that’s Melo.”
“He’s pretty much unstoppable when he’s playing that way.”
Said Kobe Bryant, whose team has lost four straight and fell to 4-9 under D’Antoni: “Melo was sensational. He is in an environment where they celebrate and encourage that…he is being who he is.”
The Knicks are in the midst of a six-game homestand and it remains unclear if Anthony will suit up for Saturday’s tilt against Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“Right now I am a little sore,” he said. “I will wake up and see what happens.”
If he has to miss a game or more, the Knicks at least know they can carry on without him. Last week they crushed the defending NBA champion Miami Heat by 20 points while Anthony was sidelined with a cut on his left hand.
And they closed this game out with productive scoring from Raymond Felton (19 points), Chandler (18) and J.R. Smith (18).
“Hopefully,” Chandler said of Anthony’s injury, “it’s not too bad.”
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Photo: Jim McIsaac/Newsday