Carmelo Anthony writhes but escapes serious injury. (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

The New York Knicks delivered an emphatic statement in their victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night but very nearly lost forward Carmelo Anthony in the process.

Anthony left the game in the third quarter after a scary collision with Dwight Howard that bent Anthony’s leg awkwardly beneath him as he fell. He managed to get up after a few moments and made one of his two free throws before leaving the game.

“It was a hard foul. I couldn’t catch my fall,” Anthony said after the Knicks’ 116-107 win in Madison Square Garden. “It was an awkward fall. Right now I’m sore.”

Luckily for the Knicks, Anthony said he was “day-to-day.” “I’ll wake up [Friday morning] and see what happens,” he said. Anthony was rolling, with 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting in 23 minutes. He had 22 points in the first quarter — two shy of the Knicks’ record held by Willis Reed and Allan Houston.

“I was zoned in. I was locked in,” said Anthony, who was playing before the Knicks’ former coach, Mike D’Antoni. “Tonight was one of those games where I had that feeling. I wanted to beat them. I wanted to beat the Lakers, especially protecting our home court. It had nothing to do with Mike.”

The Knicks, who have the Eastern Conference’s best record at 17-5, are 9-0 at home and the heady days of Linsanity and questioning whether the Knicks are better without Anthony are forgotten. Anthony got a pep talk from, of all people, Kobe Bryant back then.

“Last year was very tough for him because he was criticized a lot for shooting and for playing the way that he likes to play. Then the whole Linsanity thing happened and everybody said, ‘Well, they’re better without Carmelo’ and all this nonsense,” Bryant said after the game. “You guys are guilty of it. You really put the hammer on him, and as a result, he kind of got a little gun-shy and a little self-conscious about things.

“I asked him, ‘What the hell are you doing? To hell with them. You have to do what you do best.’ … I think the organization put pieces around him that allowed him to do that. Now you guys all celebrate him for what he’s always done. God bless you guys.”

Maybe he just needed the right coach.

“He’s always been coachable,” Mike Woodson, who succeeded D’Antoni last spring, said of Anthony. “From Day 1 when I stepped in here … even when I was an assistant, I thought he was very coachable.”

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