NEW YORK -- The NBA has another ugly scene to recover from. This one involved its leading scorer and happened in its most famous arena.
Denver's Carmelo Anthony and the other nine players on the court at the time were ejected for fighting during a wild brawl between the Nuggets and Knicks, triggered in part by a New York team that felt it was being shown up on its home floor.
Multiple players, including Anthony, threw punches, and New York's Nate Robinson and Denver's J.R. Smith -- fouled hard by Mardy Collins on the play that started the brawl -- flew into the first row of the crowd while fighting during the NBA's scariest scene since Indiana players fought with Detroit fans in 2004.
Smith had a red mark along the left side of his face, but there were no other injuries among the players. No fans were directly involved, even after the fighting spilled into the seats.
According to the Knicks, the whole thing happened because the Nuggets still had their starters on the floor with 1:15 left and a 19-point lead. Denver won 123-100.
"They just wanted to embarrass us," Robinson said. "It was a slap in the face to us. As a team, as a franchise, we weren't going to let that happen. A clean, hard foul happened and after that it went down from there."
The foul wasn't clean at all. Collins grabbed Smith around the neck as he was going in for a breakaway layup. Anthony and Robinson quickly jumped in, and the melee went from one end of the court all the way to the other.
Anthony threw a punch at Collins, and now awaits what will surely be strong punishment from a league still trying to repair its image after the melee in Auburn Hills, Mich.
"Something's going to happen, but we shall see and wait," Anthony said. "I don't really want to comment on that right now."
The NBA didn't, either. Spokesman Tim Frank said the league would "review the incident in its entirety. Until then, it would not be appropriate to comment."
But the players can expect a harsh penalty with the brawl happening at Madison Square Garden, right in the hometown of NBA headquarters.
"I feel bad for the league, I feel bad for the Denver Nuggets and the New York Knicks," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "Very poor display of respecting basketball and respecting the game in the best place in the world to play basketball."
There had previously been some bad blood between Karl and Knicks coach Isiah Thomas over the handling of the Larry Brown firing. Karl and Brown are close friends.
But Karl wouldn't talk about why he had his starters on the floor late in a blowout, in the closing minutes of a back-to-back that closed a five-game road trip.
Thomas said he even told Anthony that he never should have been in the game at the time.
"I just said to him, 'You know, you're up 20, you're up 19 with a minute and half to go, you and (Marcus) Camby really shouldn't be in the game right now,"' Thomas said. "We had surrendered, those guys shouldn't even be in the game at that point in time."
After the hard foul by Collins, Smith got up and jawed with Collins and Robinson jumped in to yell at Smith -- who had thrown down a reverse dunk on a fast break minutes earlier.
"They were having their way with us," Thomas said. "I think J.R. Smith had just made one dunk when he reversed and spun in the air. And I think Mardy didn't want our home crowd to see that again. So he fouled him."
Anthony rushed in and pushed Robinson in the neck, triggering the roughest moment, when Robinson and Smith went flying into the stands while fighting with each other. Anthony then threw his punch at Collins, then backed away toward the center of the court.
New York's Jared Jeffries ran from the baseline toward Anthony, but was tackled by a Denver player. The brawl stretched to the other end of the court toward the Nuggets' bench before coaches and security finally pulled Smith away and restored order.
Smith was yelling as he was escorted back to the locker room, unsure why Collins fouled him as hard as he did.
"I don't even know," Smith said. "That's the first time I ever seen the dude."
"Clearly this isn't how we or the NBA wants to be perceived," Thomas said. "It should have been a foul and the guy takes two free throws and maybe some words, but it shouldn't have escalated. This isn't even a rivalry."
Highlights of the fight were on in NBA locker rooms around the league, and players stopped buttoning their shirts or paused mid-sentence during interviews to see what happened.
"Obviously, it's unfortunate. You never want to see that. It just doesn't belong in the NBA," said Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki, who saw clips of the brawl shortly after the Mavericks had won in New Orleans. "Hopefully we can all forget about it as soon as we can."
With each team forced to put five new players on the floor, Denver finished up the win and ended a two-game losing streak. Camby had 24 points and nine rebounds, and Miller added 12 points and 10 assists.
Anthony was in the midst of a superb second half, having scored 23 points in 23 minutes after halftime. He finished with 34.
Camby, a former Knicks center, added seven blocked shots, and the Nuggets shot a season-best 57 percent from the field.
Stephon Marbury had his best game of the season for the Knicks, scoring a season-high 31 points and adding eight assists. Eddy Curry had 19 points, Robinson scored 17, and Lee finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds.
- With the Nuggets a frequently rumored destination for Allen Iverson, Karl already has an idea what it's like to coach the Philadelphia guard from talking to Brown. "I've probably heard all the stories," Karl said. "I've heard about his Olympic experience with him, I heard about the Olympic team experience, period. Yeah, I've heard all the stories. Again, I'm not going to put a magnifying glass on things that I've never witnessed or been a part of."
- The Nuggets gave 268-pound Nene his first start of the season to play against Curry, so starting center Camby didn't have to. Camby would have been giving up 50 pounds to Curry, listed at 285.
- Frye returned after missing 10 games with a sprained left ankle and started in place of Quentin Richardson, who was out with back spasms.