CHRIS LEHOURITES,AP Sports Writer
LONDON (AP) — If Carmelo Anthony keeps eating right, the New York Knicks might just be a contender for the NBA title.
After ending a two-week fast that caused him some sluggishness on the basketball court, Anthony has resumed eating normally, and it showed Thursday.
The star forward scored 26 points — 18 of them in the first half — to help the Knicks beat the Detroit Pistons 102-87 in the third regular-season NBA game to be played in the O2 Arena.
“I felt better than I was the last couple of games,” Anthony said. “I’m back eating right. Eating what I’m supposed to be eating.”
Although it was an away game for the Knicks (25-13), they certainly had the crowd behind them while playing at the same venue in which Anthony helped the United States win the Olympic gold medal in August.
Just playing the Pistons (14-25) at the O2 brought back some happy memories.
“It felt good out there,” Anthony said. “I definitely had some flashbacks out there. Running out there on the court, just being in the O2 Arena.”
And with the gold medal already in his possession, he’s now thinking about an NBA title.
“I’ve been on some good teams … but as far as being a complete team from top to bottom, this is the best team I’ve ever played on,” said Anthony, who has now scored at least 20 points in 25 straight games, extending the longest such streak of his career.
He almost managed to hit the 20-point mark in the first two quarters alone.
“He got off to such a hot start, and then he just kind of played as the game came to him,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “He was getting double-teamed and I thought he did a great job in sacrificing the basketball, which he has to do.”
Even Pistons coach Lawrence Frank wasn’t surprised.
“You know going in, there’s no secrets, he’s the best first-quarter scorer in the league,” Frank said.
Amare Stoudemire added 17 points for the Knicks and J.R. Smith scored 16. Will Bynum led the Pistons with 22 points.
After Tayshaun Prince netted a pair of free throws for the opening points of the game, the Knicks went on tear.
Tyson Chandler started it off with a dunk, and Anthony soon followed with a pair of 3-pointers sandwiched between Jason Kidd’s 3-pointer and Chris Copeland’s layup.
Iman Shumpert, in his season debut after recovering from knee surgery, nailed another 3-pointer soon after to complete the 16-0 run and put the Knicks in control.
“The Knicks got off to a great start,” Bynum said. “We were kind of playing catch up from then on.”
Trailing 56-41 at the half, the Pistons mounted a third-quarter comeback. They scored 10 straight points midway through the period amid a 16-2 run to cut the lead to 67-63.
Anthony ended the run with a pass rather than another basket.
The Knicks forward drilled a pass across the baseline to Steve Novak, who nailed a jumper. Stoudemire then sank a free throw before Smith hit a jump shot after running the court after a rebound. Anthony finished off the third quarter with a lay-in to make it 75-63.
In the fourth, the Pistons briefly cut the lead to single digits when Bynum scored seven straight points to make it 83-75, but the Knicks pulled away again — this time for good.
“We came here to win a game, so it’s very, very disappointing,” Frank said. “This is not a vacation. We’re not tourists. We came here to play a competition … on an international stage, which is a privilege and an honor to be selected, so it’s disappointing that we came up short and didn’t play our best.”
The Knicks had won only three of their last eight games heading into Thursday’s action, but they now have won two straight and next host the Brooklyn Nets on Monday.
For the Pistons, who next host the Boston Celtics on Sunday, it’s their second loss in a row. But they have still won five of the last eight.
The crowd at the O2 cheered loudly at times, but there were stretches of silence during some portions of the game. There was even a quiet moment before the game started, though it appeared to be an accident.
With Stoudemire and Prince on the court before the game speaking to the crowd with a microphone, the sound went out just as Prince was thanking the fans for their support.
The fans let out a round of boos, but they soon started cheering again as the game got under way.
In the second quarter, the referees had to resort to the video replay to make a flagrant foul call on Pistons forward Austin Daye. With Chandler driving toward the hoop, Daye hit him hard and knocked him to the court.
Chandler made both free throws and Smith added a 3-pointer about 10 seconds later to make it 44-24 midway through the quarter.
NOTES: Knicks fan and movie director Spike Lee made the trip to London and sat courtside as usual, wearing a blue suit with an orange tie. … The Knicks’ game against the Nets on Monday — Martin Luther King Jr. Day — at Madison Square Garden will mark the 14th consecutive year in which the team is playing on a holiday, and 27th overall. … Several soccer players came to the O2 to watch, including former Arsenal great Thierry Henry. … Former NBA players Bill Laimbeer and John Starks also were at the game.
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