Amar'e Stoudemire made his season debut and Carmelo Anthony returned emphatically from a two-game absence, but the All- Star duo could not contain Nicolas Batum and the Portland Trail Blazers in their 105-100 victory over the New York Knicks on Tuesday.
The last time the Trail Blazers visited Madison Square Garden they came away humbled by 42 points, but behind Batum's six 3-pointers and 26 points, Portland started the new year and its four-game road trip on a winning note.
Damian Lillard chipped in 21 points for Portland, including a key 3-pointer after New York cut a double-digit deficit to three in the final minute.
"We withstood their run and were able to make some big plays down the stretch to win," Blazers guard Wesley Matthews said.
LaMarcus Aldridge chipped in 19 points and 14 rebounds, while J.J. Hickson added 18 and nine in the wire-to-wire win, the Blazers' eighth in 10 games.
Stoudemire was a non-factor in his first game since undergoing knee surgery just before the season. The six-time All-Star came off the bench and played 16-plus minutes, scoring six points on 3-of-8 shooting with one rebound.
"From a defensive standpoint, he was rusty. We just have to keep working with him," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "He was kind of rushing a little bit, but you expect that. The guys been sitting out a while, but we'll get him back to good old Amar'e."
Anthony, who had been briefly sidelined with a hyperextended knee, netted a season high-tying 45 points, but missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with under 16 seconds remaining.
Portland built a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter when Luke Babbitt drained a 3-pointer for a 96-81 lead with 4:34 to play.
Anthony and J.R. Smith shared the load during a 13-2 spurt that brought the Knicks within four, as Smith's acrobatic follow-up of an Anthony miss cut the deficit to 98-94 with 1:26 on the clock.
Aldridge then made a jumper for a six-point lead that was cut in half by an Anthony triple. Lillard followed with a deep make from the top of the key before Anthony was fouled from behind on a dunk with 29.3 ticks remaining.
After the successful free throw, Lillard was tied up on the ensuing inbounds and lost a jump ball to Smith. With time winding down, Anthony rose from the right wing but found the front of the rim. Portland grabbed the rebound and held on to send New York to just its second back-to-back loss of the season.
The Knicks turned the ball over six times in the first 10-plus minutes, including one on Stoudemire's initial touch when he stepped on the baseline.
Portland took advantage of the mistakes and outhustled New York in the opening quarter to the tune of eight offensive rebounds and 14 second-chance points while jumping out to a 30-23 lead.
The margin reached 19 points after five different players scored on a 14-2 run, extending the margin to 46-27. Despite Anthony's 24 first-half points, which included a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, the Trail Blazers went into the break holding a 58-47 advantage.
Lillard opened the second-half scoring with a jumper, but the Knicks got hot and embarked on a 12-2 run that cut the lead to 62-59 near the midway point.
A pair of Batum 3-pointers a little later gave the Blazers some breathing room, and it was a 78-71 game heading to the fourth.
The Trail Blazers welcomed back a starter themselves as Matthews returned after missing six of the last nine games with a strained left hip. The guard tallied eight points over 30 minutes ... Anthony has scored 30 or more points a dozen times this season ... Smith totaled 28 points and team-highs of 11 rebounds and five assists ... New York fell to 12-3 at home ... The Knicks routed the Trail Blazers at MSG, 121-79, last March.