NEW ORLEANS — Carmelo Anthony spun around Darius Miller on the dribble and pulled up in the lane as he was bumped hard and knocked off balance by Hornets 7-footer Jason Smith.
Anthony’s 7-foot floater still dropped in for the front end of a three-point play that gave him 19 points in the first quarter alone. He set the tone once again for a Knicks team that is showing the potential to be as good as any New York fans have seen in a generation.
Anthony finished with 29 points and the Knicks extended the undermanned Hornets’ losing streak to four games with a 102-80 victory Tuesday night.
“It was good to get it going early,” Anthony said. “Any time you can start off on the road like that, in the first quarter like that, it gives us a lot of confidence.”
Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith each added 15 points. Felton scored all of his points on five 3-pointers as New York hit 14 3s as a team.
Tyson Chandler grabbed 12 rebounds for the Knicks, who’ve won two straight since their first loss of the season and are 8-1 for only the third time in franchise history. The other two times, the 1969-70 and 1972-73 seasons, they won championships.
If Anthony, now averaging 24.2 points per game, keeps playing the way he has started this season, Chandler sees no reason why the comparisons to the championship teams of decades ago won’t continue as the season wears on.
“We are playing the best basketball (in the league), and it’s because of him,” Chandler said of Anthony. “He is playing all over the floor on both ends. He should be at the top of the race as far as MVP goes right now.”
Ryan Anderson, starting in place of Anthony Davis, led the Hornets with 15 points. Davis was ruled out shortly before tip-off because of tenderness in his left ankle.
Rookie Austin Rivers added a career-high 14 points and Brian Roberts 13 for New Orleans.
“Just from watching the game, I didn’t think we believed we could win,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “We made a lot of youthful plays. I thought we took some very tough shots against a very good team and you can’t do that.”
It might not have mattered much if the Hornets had Davis’ shot blocking ability at their disposal. The Knicks scored only 20 points in the paint, but still shot 44.6 percent (37 of 83) thanks to stellar jump shooting. They finished 14 of 36 (38.9 percent) from 3-point range.
“We have guys that can make outside shots,” Anthony said. “When we find them, we move the ball, sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn’t. Tonight was one of those nights that it was going in.”
The Knicks came in attempting just more than 26 3s a game this season and seem to have figured out the art of positioning themselves for long rebounds off of missed perimeter shots. New York had 13 offensive rebounds, 17 second-chance points and badly outrebounded New Orleans overall, 49-36.
The Knicks led most of the game, going up 12, at 29-17 at the end of the opening quarter while the Hornets went more than four minutes without scoring.
Anthony hit eight of his first nine shots, forcing the Hornets defenders to increasingly gravitate to him. Then the rest of the Knicks, namely Felton, starting cashing in on open shots.
“You can see his leadership from Day One in training camp and tonight he was setting the table for us,” guard Jason Kidd said of Anthony. “He’s letting the game come to him and tonight he was good all the way around.”
The Knicks led by 14 early in the second quarter before the Hornets briefly made it competitive again with a 13-0 run. The spurt included two 3s by Anderson, the second giving New Orleans a 36-34 lead.
It was still as close as 43-42 late in the second quarter after a tough driving floater by Rivers, but Felton made a pair of quick 3s during an 8-0 run that also included an 18-footer by Anthony, and the Knicks were quickly back up by nine before taking a 53-48 lead into halftime.
New York then opened the third quarter on a 10-4 run that included another Anthony jumper and Ronnie Brewer’s 3 to make it 63-52. The lead remained in double digits from there on, growing as large as 26 on James White’s fast-break dunk in the fourth quarter.
“They hit some tough shots, but our intensity was down,” Hornets guard Greivis Vasquez, who finished with 10 points. “In the first four minutes of the third quarter they were up by 20 and that’s the game. We can’t allow these teams to get these leads like that.”