NEW YORK (AP) — Carmelo Anthony had never experienced anything like his welcome to New York.
The screaming fans and video tributes seemed more fitting for a rock concert than an NBA game.
But when it got close at the end, that was all too familiar to Anthony.
“It came down to basketball at that point,” he said.
Anthony had 27 points and 10 rebounds, hitting a pair of clutch buckets down the stretch in front of a crowd that cheered his every move as New York beat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-108 on Wednesday night in his Knicks debut.
“This was ordinary for him, and that’s the highest compliment of what he does. You drop him in any place, any playground, any place in the world and he’ll put up 27 points and 10 rebounds,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. “That’s what he does for a living.”
Anthony made only 10 of 25 shots but was at his best in the closing minutes, helping New York hold on after fellow superstar Amare Stoudemire fouled out. He matched the third-highest scoring game in a Knicks debut since 1964, just two points shy of Keith Van Horn’s 29 on Oct. 29, 2003.
“I’m just glad I got this game out of my system,” Anthony said, adding the last two days were both “hectic” and a “roller coaster.”
Chauncey Billups, who came with Anthony from Denver in Tuesday’s blockbuster trade, finished with 21 points and eight assists as the Knicks won their third straight. Toney Douglas scored 23 points and Stoudemire had 19.
John Salmons scored 27 points for the Bucks. Andrew Bogut added 14 points and 12 rebounds.
With fans chanting for both Anthony and Billups in the final minute, New York matched its win total from last season with its 29th victory — but now the Knicks have much bigger plans than that.
The Knicks have never had a winning season since Anthony entered the NBA and are mired in a franchise-worst stretch of nine straight losing seasons. Their revival began when Stoudemire signed last summer and reached a new level Wednesday when Anthony walked out of the tunnel and onto the floor where he came in averaging 30.4 points, just off Kobe Bryant’s 30.5 for tops among active players.
Anthony said before the game the Knicks could score 120 points per game, and they weren’t far off even without any real practice time in their first game together.
Milwaukee was down four when Anthony drove the baseline for a dunk with 1:18 remaining, and with Stoudemire on the bench his tough bucket in the lane with the shot clock running down with 26 seconds left made it 108-102.
“We needed that offensive threat out there when I’m not on the court, and he’s definitely that,” Stoudemire said.
They might need it even more later in the season. Stoudemire picked up his 15th technical foul of the season after fouling out, moving him one away from an automatic one-game suspension.
Anthony added two free throws with 11.4 seconds remaining, fans chanting “Melo! Melo!” as he sank them for a six-point edge. Billups was serenaded with a “Chauncey Billups!” chant when he later went to the line.
The Knicks gave up a lot to land them, surrendering starters Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov and top reserve Wilson Chandler. But they insisted the price was worth it for the chance to pair Anthony along with Stoudemire, with both locked up long term after Anthony signed a contract extension on his way out of Denver.
With the building appearing completely full before tipoff, fans roared as quotes from Anthony appeared on the overhead videoboard before introductions, noting he was born in Brooklyn and wanted to be former Knicks star Bernard King.
Anthony was then introduced first to a raucous ovation, and quickly earned his first points as a Knick on an offensive rebound with 9:37 left in the first quarter.
“I never experienced anything like that before,” Anthony said. “That was a hell of a moment for the fans to react the way they did.”
But he appeared rusty after playing little over the last week and perhaps a little worn out after a whirlwind All-Star weekend, and his jumper was off for most of the night.
He arrived in New York on Tuesday night and was introduced along with Billups in a packed pregame press conference, telling the huge crowd that he was “ready to get down to business right now.”
With only a short workout since the players need to pass physicals Wednesday, D’Antoni said he put in four or five plays and it would be almost like an All-Star game. The Knicks were sharp early, shooting 59 percent in the first quarter and opening an 11-point lead early in the second on Anthony’s dunk.
“It’s one game and those are all Olympic-caliber players and they looked good out there,” Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. “Neither of them shot the percentage they’d like to out there, but it’s one game and they haven’t even practiced with each other yet.”
Milwaukee cut it to 59-57 at halftime and grabbed the lead early in the third quarter. The Knicks quickly went back ahead and were up 86-79 after Douglas scored the last five points of the period, including a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left.
NOTES: The Knicks recognized some of their top players, one from each decade, during their third annual “Legends Night.” Harry Gallatin (1950s), Dick Barnett (1960s), Earl Monroe (1970s), John Starks (1990s) and Allan Houston (2000s) were honored during a halftime ceremony. Mark Jackson (1980s) was not here following the death of his younger brother, Troy, on Sunday. … Skiles screamed at the officials after Anthony was allowed to grab a defensive rebounding spot after a Bucks free-throw shooter already had the ball. Referee Scott Wall screamed back at Skiles that he had messed it up.