On Sunday, the Knicks were looking to Chris Copeland (22 points) to guide them early harder than someone lost looks for the North Star. The “other” guy in the Knicks’ recent starting five hit his first three threes in rapid fire to keep his team afloat in the first quarter and got another bucket before the first quarter was over. It was an uneasy lead for each team from there till the final 12 minutes, even after Carmelo Anthony‘s second-quarter where he burst out of his languid state for 6-of-9 shooting (he’d get 27 on the night). Just when New York had the ball and a chance to get the lead to 10 in the early third, Tyson Chandler ran over Robin Lopez like a California stop and Eric Gordon‘s (22 points) threes and Lopez’s hook shots stopped falling. The Hornets were dreadful to watch from distance, shooting 17 percent. Finally pushing a New York lead past 10 points for the Knicks was Copeland. And when a 13-2 run in the fourth included five points from Copeland and turned the 100-87 win to the Knicks for good, ‘Melo was on the bench. It might be a good thing he was: Anthony afterward said he was tired because he hadn’t eaten carbs or meat for two weeks. Why a star player fasts in the middle of a season we don’t know, though he mentioned when he’s done this before, it’s been for “spiritual” reasons. Hmm, OK. Maybe when KG dropped — allegedly — his ‘Honey Nut Cheerios” line, ‘Melo flew off the handle because just the thought of actual food was too intense for him. … Amir Johnson is the only hope for Toronto’s frontline right now because of Toronto’s big-man injuries, but a funny thing happened on his way to 22 points and 14 boards: the rest of the team stopped playing. And, as luck would have it, another big man stole the show and the game from Toronto, 107-96, in Canada. After coming from 20 points down in the first quarter, a huge play came from Milwaukee’s Larry Sanders, who pulled out the fly swatter on DeMar DeRozan (23 points) with 3:10 left in the fourth on a bucket that would have given the Raps the lead. Instead, Jennings (19 points) blew past his man in the transition confusion and found Mike Dunleavy for an uncontested triple to go up four. It was academic after that. … Jim Boylan (3-1) and P.J. Carlesimo (8-1) are interim sensations in Milwaukee and Brooklyn. The Nets won again in the post-Avery season, beating Indiana 97-86. Paul George keeps showing us why he’s a future star. He only made 6-of-18 shots but had 12 boards as well, but Indiana’s grinding style doesn’t work well on a back-to-back. David West earned 27 points in a combined 73 minutes in the last two games. It was just too much to hold Brooklyn to 40 percent shooting and hold them off the boards, where offensive boards hurt Indiana. … Tim Duncan had 14 points, nine boards and seven blocks and the Spurs rolled 106-88 over Minnesota. The Spurs usually seem like they play on auto-pilot because their core has played together so long, but Sunday, Gregg Popovich got tossed and Manu Ginobili hurt a hamstring. It didn’t matter against the E.R. unit that is Minnesota’s roster. … Hit the jump to read about Oklahoma City’s counterpunch in Portland …
The Lakers are still in a bad place, but a 37-point first quarter looked awfully nice in their 113-93 win to stop a six-game losing streak. Even if Kyrie Irving (15 points) had the nicest bucket of the first quarter — a pump-fake step-through with one hand over Kobe — the Lakers showed the ease (shooting 62 percent in that quarter, then 58 for the game) that everyone thought they’d show this season. Dwight Howard returned (22 points, 14 rebounds) from a labrum injury but didn’t look hobbled reaching for rebounds or guarding Tyler Zeller. But this is the Lakers of 2012-13 so it wouldn’t be that easy. Six straight empty possessions by L.A. late in the second quarter produced 12 turnovers in the quarter, not counting Kobe‘s (23 points) three-in-the-key. The Lakers’ play-by-play team would have had a coronary had it reached seven. It’s like the Lakers figured everyone in L.A. was watching the Golden Globes so they could just chill and no one would watch. Finally a Nash-to-Dwight and-one oop got a shot attempt, a bucket and a Robert Sacre celebration. Things were back to normal. … Portland is in the teeth of a tough three-game run in the past four days, and now has two tough finishes after Thursday’s huge win over Miami. Against both Golden State on Friday and Oklahoma City on Sunday, Portland whittled its deficit down to single digits in the fourth quarter — one shot away each time from knotting it up — but without a win to show for it. So went OKC’s 87-83 win over Portland while missing both Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka with injuries. LaMarcus Aldridge knew he had a lane without I-blocka to contest his jumpers, and he poured in 33 points. The 34th and 35th points, though, were not to be when his jumper to tie airballed. Kevin Durant had 33 points and 22 in the second half, made all the more impressive because he was guarded by the same personnel who held LeBron to just 15, basically wearing Wes Matthews like a sweater most the second half. Russell Westbrook hit a huge three with Aldridge closing out on him to get the Thunder’s dwindling lead back up to 10 with three minutes to play. It would have been hard to believe in October this would be an impressive win for OKC on the road, but they took a damn good punch from the Blazers yet stayed standing. … Denver pulled out another fourth-quarter run, a 19-2 stretch against Golden State, to rally for a 116-105 win. It doesn’t diminish how lethal Stephen Curry‘s seven threes (and 29 points) were and they showed his hot season isn’t slowing down. … We’re out like another late lead in the NFL playoffs.
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