Carmelo Anthony was back on the court on Wednesday night, scoring and leading the Knicks to another win that helped them stay atop the Eastern Conference.

This one was easy, a 100-86 trouncing of the Nets in their first trip to the Garden since they moved to Brooklyn. After seeing his team riddled for 31 points by Anthony, Avery Johnson talked about the Knicks' star functioning at the highest level.

"He's on another planet right now,'' Johnson said, at one point.

Johnson mentioned that Anthony, out the last two games with a twisted left ankle and knee, is scoring every way possible. From beyond the arc. From inside the three-point line. On post-ups. Driving. Getting to the line.

The only thing Johnson didn't mention was what the visitor to his office talked about, on his way out of the Garden. Patrick Ewing had stuck his head into Johnson's lair, saying hello and wishing the coach luck the rest of the way.

As he left the visitor's dressing room, someone told the great old Knick about Johnson's comment that Anthony is playing out of this world.

"Well,'' Ewing said, "we all mature.''

Anthony, in fact, has grown up a lot. He came to New York two years ago and wasn't exactly embracing a team-first game, not nearly as much as he does now. Ewing can see the difference, too.

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