Carmelo Anthony exploded for 22 of his 30 points in the opening quarter before leaving with an ankle sprain as the surging New York Knicks knocked off the struggling Los Angeles Lakers 116-107 to remain undefeated at home in the NBA.
The Knicks won for the eighth time in the past nine games and moved to 9-0 at Madison Square Garden this season.
Raymond Felton had 19 points with eight assists, JR Smith and Tyson Chandler scored 18 apiece for the Eastern Conference-leading Knicks (17-5), who led by as many as 26 before fending off a late charge to secure the wire-to-wire win.
Kobe Bryant had 31 points with 10 rebounds despite back spasms, while Metta World Peace and Dwight Howard finished with 23 points and 20 points respectively for the Lakers (9-14), who lost their season-high fourth in a row.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni returned to the Garden to face his former team since resigning last March.
But without injured superstars Pau Gasol (tendinitis in both knees) and Steve Nash (fractured left leg) he dropped to 4-9 since replacing fired Mike Brown.
Anthony came out on fire, exposing the Lakers' poor defence as the Knicks roared to a 41-27 advantage after the opening quarter and 68-49 at halftime.
Ahead by 17, Anthony received a hard but clean foul on a drive to the basket and suffered a left ankle sprain. He stayed down briefly but left for good with six minutes 41 seconds remaining in the third period.
Trailing by 21, Bryant buried a tough three-pointer from the left corner pulling the Lakers to within 105-99 with 4:48 remaining. But Felton fed Chandler for a thunderous dunk and Smith nailed a three-pointer that opened up a 111-102 cushion with 3:49 left.
The Lakers made a final run, drawing to within 113-107 on a steal and layup by World Peace with 90 seconds left. The Knicks, however, got two critical back-taps from Chandler off missed shots to retain possession and ran down the clock to seal the win.
Elsewhere, rookie Damien Lillard tossed in a career-high 29 points, LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 and the Portland Trail Blazers turned back the visiting San Antonio Spurs 98-90.
Frenchman Tony Parker netted 21 points while Tim Duncan added 16 for the Spurs (18-6), who suffered back-to-back losses for the first time this season.
Devin Harris scored 20 points, Josh Smith had 18 and the Atlanta Hawks handed sliding Charlotte Bobcats their 10th straight loss, 113-90.
The Hawks' 11th win in the last 13 games vaulted them into a tie with idle Miami atop the South-East Division, both with identical 14-6 records.
Gerald Henderson had 17 points and Ramon Sessions 16 for the Bobcats (7-15), whose last win was against Washington on November 24th.