The New York Knicks rolled to a comfortable 100-86 victory over the Brooklyn Nets thanks to stifling defense, crisp offense and outstanding play from star forward Carmelo Anthony, who returned after missing two games to score 31 points.

The third meeting this season between the two teams was a close contest in the first half, but the Knicks went on an 18-4 run in the third quarter to turn a four-point deficit into a 75-65 lead and never looked back.

The unselfishness and hard-nosed defense preached by head coach Mike Woodson was on display on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, as the Knicks consistently set up uncontested shots with an extra pass while pressuring the Nets' star point guard, Deron Williams, into an uncharacteristically high 10 turnovers.

Woodson also drew up plenty of isolation plays for Anthony, who came back strong after missing two games with a left ankle injury suffered during the Knicks' win last week over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Anthony shot 12-of-22 from the field and made 4-of-8 3-pointers on a night when he mostly avoided driving to the basket and went just 3-of-3 from the free-throw line.

The Knicks had gone 1-1 in Anthony's absence, including suffering their first home defeat of the season Monday against the Houston Rockets in point guard Jeremy Lin's return to the Garden.

Reserve swingman J.R. Smith scored 19 points and center Tyson Chandler notched a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds and threw down some powerful dunks during the momentum-changing stretch of the third quarter.

Point guard Raymond Felton, who has quickly made Knicks fans forget about Lin, had an off night from the field Wednesday night, shooting just 4-of-15 for eight points, but he controlled the tempo and did not commit a single turnover in nearly 32 minutes of action.

The Nets, losers of three straight games and eight of their last 10, were led by shooting guard Joe Johnson with 17 points and center Brook Lopez and Williams, who notched 16 points each.

The Knicks improved their record to 19-6, tops in the Eastern Conference, while the Nets are now just one game above .500 at 13-12 and six games behind the Knicks in the Atlantic Division standings.

The Knicks have won two of their first three games against their new crosstown rivals, who are in their inaugural season in Brooklyn after 35 years in New Jersey.

In other action Wednesday night in the NBA, the Orlando Magic defeated the Washington Wizards 90-83, the Toronto Raptors notched a 97-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons, the Indiana Pacers routed the Utah Jazz 104-84 and the Boston Celtics cruised past the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-91.

The Oklahoma City Thunder topped the Atlanta Hawks 100-92 for their 12th straight victory, the Houston Rockets trounced the Philadelphia 76ers 125-103, the Phoenix Suns blitzed the Charlotte Bobcats 121-104 and the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 90-80.

The Sacramento Kings outscored the Golden State Warriors 131-127 and the Los Angeles Clippers pounded the New Orleans Hornets 93-77.

EFE