NEW YORK (AP) — Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points and the New York Knicks salvaged the finale of a tumultuous five-game homestand by beating the San Antonio Spurs 94-90 on Sunday.
With Latrell Sprewell and a number of other former Knicks in attendance two days after Charles Oakley was banned, the current team pulled out a defensive performance from its past, limiting the Spurs to 36 percent shooting.
That came just two nights after the Knicks yielded 131 points in a dismal defensive performance against Denver, which came after losses to Cleveland and both Los Angeles teams to start the homestand.
Kawhi Leonard had 36 points for the Spurs (41-13), who had their two-game win streak snapped and failed in their first attempt to secure what would have been an NBA-record 20th consecutive winning season.
The Knicks didn’t let the Spurs reach 70 points until fewer than 8 minutes remained. Then Anthony provided offense when they needed it clinging to a two-point lead, making consecutive baskets to make it 92-86 with 33 seconds remaining.
Anthony’s relationship with Phil Jackson and resulting trade rumors were a constant throughout the homestand, though the fallout from Oakley’s arrest after an altercation with security guards last Wednesday became the bigger story.
Those overshadowed the losing streak that sent the Knicks tumbling to 12th place in the Eastern Conference.
Spurs: The Spurs signed veteran center Joel Anthony for the remainder of the season following the expiration of his second 10-day contract. … F Jonathon Simmons missed the game because of an illness, remaining in the team hotel.
Knicks: The Knicks changed their lineup again, starting Willy Hernangomez after going with Porzingis in a small lineup Friday. … Lance Thomas returned after missing 14 games with a broken bone in his face but Joakim Noah missed his fourth straight game with a sore left hamstring. Coach Jeff Hornacek said the Knicks would weigh sitting out Noah in their only game this week before the All-Star Game.
SPREE IN THE SEATS
Sprewell returned to Madison Square Garden for the first time since playing here for the final time on Dec. 29, 2004.
Sprewell sat behind the baseline next to MSG chairman James Dolan, who banned Oakley from the arena after he was arrested last week following an altercation with security while attending a game.
Perhaps to back Dolan’s point that the franchise has strong relationships with almost all its other former players, the Knicks showed a number of them on the video board during their game against San Antonio, including Larry Johnson, Bernard King, Vin Baker, Kenny Walker and Herb Williams.
Sprewell spent five seasons with the Knicks but cursed at Dolan in his first game back here after being traded to Minnesota, but a Knicks official had been working for the last few years to reconcile their relationship so Sprewell could return.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wouldn’t touch any questions about Oakley or Jackson, but did agree that stability off the court helps his team have success on it.
“I don’t have a drama meter to prove one way or the other, but less drama makes my job easier and that’s good enough for me,” said Popovich, who added that winning in general makes things better.
“The grass looks greener and the sky’s blue more often when you win a game than lose a game,” he said.
The grass was covered by sleet and freezing rain in New York on Sunday.
Spurs: Visit Indiana on Monday, their first meeting of the season.
Knicks: Visit Oklahoma City on Wednesday for their final game before the All-Star break.