The preseason matchup between the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks drew a sellout crowd of 12,376 to Baltimore Arena for the Baltimore Basketball Classic on Thursday, honoring the 50th anniversary of the Baltimore Bullets' inaugural season in 1963.
Forward Carmelo Anthony scored 22 points to lead the Knicks to a 98-89 preseason win over the Wizards in his return to his hometown.
Washington assistant coach Sam Cassell, who was the Baltimore Player of the Year as a senior at Dunbar in 1988, said he reached out to Anthony before the game.
"I just said, 'Welcome home.' We had many battles, as players," Cassell said. "I think our ownership saw how big this game was in Baltimore, and I'm hoping we can bring it back every year."
Both teams played their starters for most of the first quarter, giving fans a glimpse of what the regular season might look like. New York's offseason addition at power forward, Andrea Bargnani, showed off the shooting stroke that made him a deep threat in Toronto over the past seven seasons, drilling a 3-pointer and scoring nine points early.
Second-year guard Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 21 points, converting three 3-point shots. Beal's performance built off a highlight night against the Miami Heat on Tuesday, when he scored 29 points on 15 shots.
"When we play and share the ball, it gets [Beal] good looks," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "When we get good looks, we usually knock them down."
Anthony wasn't afraid to shoot from tip-off, going 4-for-9 for eight points and two assists in the opening frame. After sitting to start the second, he returned with five minutes left in the half to score on one of his patented plays, an isolation cross-over that turned into a midrange jumper for two.
He followed that play with a drive and kick-out assist to Tim Hardaway Jr., who drained the 3-point shot. The Knicks led 59-46 at the half, buoyed by 53.7 percent shooting.
"The excitement was there, but I was just doing everything that I would do in any other game," Anthony said. "I was just playing my game and trying to have fun with it."
The Wizards looked to mount a comeback with less than a minute left in the third, but Anthony made a free throw to extend the Knicks' lead to 78-68. Washington pulled to within five points briefly in the fourth, but the lead proved insurmountable.
Thursday was the first time that Baltimore had hosted an NBA basketball game since Oct. 23, 1999, when the Wizards hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers in a preseason game. Ravens wide receivers Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith were in attendance, as well as multiple members of past Bullets teams.
"It felt like a home crowd," Anthony said.