By Michael Szabo
LONDON (Reuters) - Carmelo Anthony led the New York Knicks to a 102-87 victory over the Detroit Pistons in London on Thursday, just five months after he helped Team USA take basketball gold on the same stage at last year's Olympics.
Anthony, the Knicks' leading scorer and candidate for the league's Most Valuable Player award this season, recorded 26 points in the sold out London affair, the third regular season NBA game to be played at the city's O2 Arena.
"It felt good out there and the crowd was fantastic," he told reporters after the game, adding that the experience was reminiscent of the 2012 Olympic Men's Basketball final, which saw the United States top Spain at the same London venue.
Anthony scored 18 points in the opening two quarters of Thursday's contest to give the New York a 56-41 halftime lead in the designated home game for the Pistons.
"The Knicks got off to a great start and we were playing catch up from then on," Pistons guard Will Bynum said.
A mix of foul trouble and poor shooting by the Knicks in the third quarter allowed Detroit to claw back to within four points before New York pulled away for good.
Bynum scored 22 points, while team-mates Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond both notched 11 points and 10 rebounds each.
The Knicks (25-13) are ranked second in the NBA's Eastern Conference behind rivals and defending champions the Miami Heat, while Detroit (14-25) languish in 11th spot and are unlikely to make the playoffs.
With strong attendances for basketball at the 2012 London Olympics, the league is keen to build on a growing UK fan base.
The NBA played back-to-back regular season games in London in March 2011 featuring the Toronto Raptors and the New Jersey Nets, who have since relocated to Brooklyn.
Even though Thursday's contest was officially a home game for Detroit, vociferous crowd support for New York made the game feel like it was being played in Manhattan's Madison Square Garden.
"We had great, great fans and they received us very well. It felt like a home game for us," added New York's Amar'e Stoudemire, who had 17 points on the night.
(Editing by John O'Brien)