CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Leave it to a Syracuse guy to spoil Patrick Ewing's NBA head coaching debut.
Carmelo Anthony had 28 points and eight rebounds, Andrea Bargnani added 25 points and the New York Knicks beat Ewing's Bobcats 101-91 Friday night to snap a three-game losing streak. Ewing, the former Georgetown star who spent 15 seasons with the Knicks, filled in as Charlotte's coach after Steve Clifford underwent a successful procedure earlier in the day to have two stents placed in his heart. Clifford checked himself into the hospital late Thursday night with chest pain.
The Bobcats haven't said when they expect Clifford to return to the bench. "Unfortunately I didn't get my first win," Ewing said. "I was nervous at first but once the game started I was able to calm down and do my thing."
The Knicks did their thing right from the opening tip, looking for the first time this season like the playoff team they were a year ago. After Tuesday night's 102-97 loss to the Bobcats, the Knicks held a players-only meeting.
Whatever was said apparently worked. "Sometimes you need to get together and talk and communicate and figure out what the problem is, what's the issue," Anthony said. "We responded well tonight." The Knicks played with a passion that's been absent of late and drew the ire of owner James Dolan. Behind Anthony, who once led Syracuse to a national title, things looked a lot better.
"We played like our backs were against the wall," Anthony said. "It was a must-win for us. This early in the season when you talk about must-wins, something obviously is going wrong. But we corrected that."
Bargnani is a big reason why. Filling in at center for the injured Tyson Chandler, Bargnani hit 11 of 25 shots from the field — including three 3-pointers — had eight rebounds and blocked five shots. It was his first 20-point game since March 4.
Bargnani said he learned a lesson along the way. "Don't be hesitant and just play my game and go out there and do what I've always done all these years," Bargnani said. "I got to be more aggressive on the offense."
Said Anthony: "It seemed like tonight he wasn't hesitating and he had that shoot-first mentality, which I like." Kemba Walker, who led the Bobcats with 25 points, said that's where his team fell short.
Walker said the Bobcats' lack of energy, not Ewing's coaching ability, is the reason Charlotte had its two-game win streak snapped. "Our energy level from the get go wasn't so great," Walker said. "I thought (Ewing) did great. It was us, the players. We are the ones on the court out there playing. We just have to pick up the intensity."
The Knicks shot 75 percent from the field in the third quarter — including six of seven 3-point attempts — to blow open a tight game and snap a three-game losing skid. Raymond Felton added 15 points for the Knicks (2-3).
The Knicks opened an 18-point lead in the third quarter, but the Bobcats whittled it down to 10 at one point. The game changed after a Knicks timeout. Metta World Peace gave New York a boost by knocking down a 3-pointer, then making a steal and finding Tim Hardaway Jr. in transition for another 3. Pablo Prigioni's 3 stretched the lead back to 19 and the Bobcats never challenged again.
On Tuesday night, Anthony scored 32 points but shot just 10 of 32 against the Bobcats. He was more efficient in the rematch, shooting 12 of 22 with six assists. Anthony hurt the Bobcats in a variety of ways — with fall-away jumpers, drives to the basket and with physical play inside outmuscling the younger, less experienced Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor in the low post for easy shots.
Ewing has been an NBA assistant for 10 years, but this was his first game as a head coach. It came against a team that he played for from 1985-2000. "Coach Clifford and I have been friends for a lot of years — we've worked together for over 10 years now — and this is definitely not the way I wanted to start my head coaching career with him being in the hospital," Ewing said before the game.
The 7-foot Ewing towered above over a group of smaller referees as he spoke with them periodically from the bench. He stayed calm for the most part, sitting and watching rather than standing and yelling. At one point he pleaded with officials for a goaltending call when Ramon Sessions drove to the basket and was fouled by raising his long right arm to signal the ball was on its way down.
NOTES: The Bobcats entered as the second-worst free throw shooting team in the league, but hit 19 of 20 foul shots in the first half. ... The Bobcats continue to play without Al Jefferson, who is out with a sprained ankle. ... The Knicks shot 46 percent from 3-point range.