for this game

Melo leads Knicks in first of home-and-home with Raptors

Mar 22, 2013 - 2:10 PM (Sports Network) - The New York Knicks welcomed the return of All-Star Carmelo Anthony the last time out and hope the team's leading scorer can stay healthy for the stretch run.

The Knicks will return to the hardwood Friday in the opener of a home-and-home series with the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. Anthony had missed three straight and six of eight games with a knee ailment and returned to action in Wednesday's 106-94 triumph over the Orlando Magic.

Anthony scored 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting in just over a half hour of play.

"For him to play 32 and get 21 and eight and we win, I think it was positive night for him," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said of Anthony.

J.R. Smith added 22 points for New York, which has won two straight on the heels of a four-game skid and maintained its one-game lead over the Brooklyn Nets for Atlantic Division supremacy. The Knicks are also third in the East standings, one game behind Indiana and one ahead of the Nets.

Already without Amare Stoudemire (knee surgery), Tyson Chandler (back/knee) and Kurt Thomas (foot), New York may not have Iman Shumpert Friday because of a knee strain. Shumpert is questionable against the Raptors.

The Knicks haven't won three in a row since the end of February and the beginning of March and are 17-16 on the road. They just went 1-4 on a recent road swing out west.

Toronto, which is scheduled to visit Madison Square Garden on Saturday, hopes to get back on track even though it has no chance of making a playoff push.

The Raptors have dropped two straight and nine of 12 games, including Wednesday's 107-101 road setback against the just-as-lowly Charlotte Bobcats. Rudy Gay scored 25 points, DeMar DeRozan had 19 and Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas finished with 18 points apiece for the Raptors, who shot 42.2 percent and made only 5-of-22 3-pointers.

Charlotte trailed 26-22 after the first quarter and came alive in the second period, outscoring the visitors by a 31-22 margin. The Bobcats' bench also outscored the Raptors' reserves, 54-13

"In the first quarter we had a good tempo, but they took the game to us from there," said Lowry.

After the Raptors host the Knicks, they will play three of four on the road.

Toronto is 17-17 north of the border this season and won both matchups so far this season with New York. The Knicks have lost 13 of the past 17 encounters with Toronto at Air Canada Centre. New York has not lost a season series versus Toronto in each of the last two seasons.

Anthony is averaging 22.0 ppg in two games against the Raptors in 2012-13. Gay is averaging 21.5 ppg in that time and DeRozan is posting an average of 19.0 ppg in the two showdowns with the Knicks.