It would be a momentum changer, one way or another. But Anthony could not replicate his Sunday shooting heroics, nor the outcome. The shot missed, and the raced the other way and ran off with a 98-86 victory, avenging their defeat in New York two days earlier.
A resurgent Richard Hamilton led Chicago with 20 points, including 18 in the third quarter, and the Bulls (44-14) overcame the absence of Derrick Rose, who rested a sprained right ankle.
Anthony had 29 points, a solid encore to his 43-point performance against the Bulls two days earlier. But the Knicks could not muster enough defense nor find a consistent second scorer, and Anthony — who won Sunday’s game with two big 3-pointers — could not re-create his late-game magic.
Anthony tried, with a transition 3-pointer with just under 4 minutes to play and the Knicks down by 11. The shot missed, leading to a fast-break and a 3-point play for Kyle Korver. Instead of cutting the deficit to 8, the Knicks fell behind by 14.
“That’s a big bounce in their favor,” Coach Mike Woodson said. “We struggled all night.”
Korver had 11 points in the fourth quarter and blocked shots by Iman Shumpert and Landry Fields as the Bulls won the season series 3-1. If these teams meet again, it will be as the first and eighth seeds in the playoffs later this month.
At the moment, the Knicks (29-28) are not even assured of making the playoffs. The loss dropped them back into eighth place, with a mere one-game lead on Milwaukee Bucks, their opponent Wednesday night.
A loss in Milwaukee would give the Bucks the season series and the tiebreaker, dropping the Knicks to ninth and out of the playoff field. They have reached the point of the season where every hiccup rattles the standings.
“It’s a must win,” Anthony said, repeating the statement. “It’s probably one of the biggest games of the season for us, and we got to approach it like that. We got to be ready. Forget this game, it’s behind us.”
The Knicks were outhustled, losing the rebounding contest by 51-33 while giving the Bulls 25 second-chance points. Their offense looked stagnant. With no big-man depth and little playmaking, the Knicks for the first time seemed to miss Amar’e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin, their injured starters.
J.R. Smith had 14 points on Tuesday and Shumpert had 12. But the Knicks’ 86 points was their lowest output in 10 games, and they shot just .425 from the field.
“We didn’t get ball movement,” Woodson said. “We didn’t flow into things like we’ve been. This is the first time I’ve seen that since I’ve been the head coach. I don’t want to fall into the pattern.”
The Bulls were missing Rose, their star point guard, whose injury-plagued season took another bad turn Sunday, when he sprained his right ankle in the first half against the Knicks. It was his first appearance after a 12-game absence stemming from a groin injury.
Rose showed no sign of the injury on Sunday, but he reportedly wore a walking boot on Monday and was listed as a game-time decision Tuesday. He went through a series of drills on the court before being scratched from the lineup.
Rose has also battled through toe and back injuries this season, missing 23 games in all, although the Bulls have weathered it well, going 16-7 without him. With the best record in the league, Chicago could afford to be cautious.
“If we’re going to err, we’re going to err on the side of caution,” Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He wanted to play. We felt it best that he didn’t.”
Tyson Chandler had another strong showing, with 15 rebounds, 10 points and 3 blocks, bolstering his case for defensive player of the year. He could have used some help in the paint. Jared Jeffries, who recently returned from a knee injury, is not moving well and played just 14 minutes.
“We’re a little small right now,” Chandler lamented, adding, “We didn’t do a good job boxing out tonight. We’ve got to do a better job of when we switch and I challenge the guard’s shot, someone has to get the big guy out.”
The Knicks had a 6-point lead late in the first quarter but scored just 10 points in the second and trailed by 47-35 at halftime. They never got the lead again, and never got closer than 8 points in the fourth quarter.
The schedule may doom the Knicks on Wednesday night. Tuesday’s game, televised by ESPN, started at 8:30 p.m. local time and ended after 11 p.m. — giving the Knicks less than 20 hours before they tip off in Milwaukee.
Amar’e Stoudemire went through shooting drills at the morning shootaround, but he is not running yet and he remains at least a week away from playing. The Knicks projected that Stoudemire would be out for two to four weeks after he received an epidural to treat a bulging disk in his back. He will reach the two-week mark on Thursday. “He looked pretty good,” Mike Woodson said. “But again, I think its going to be up to Amar’e and the doctors to figure out when he decides to make his move.” Stoudemire has not spoken publicly about his injury in two-and-a-half weeks. When Stoudemire does return, he will return to his starting power forward position, Woodson said. Carmelo Anthony has been thriving as an undersized power forward in Stoudemire’s absence….The Knicks are expected to send a team Las Vegas for the N.B.A.’s summer league, which returns this July after a one-year hiatus caused by the lockout. Iman Shumpert is likely to play. …The Knicks sent center Jerome Jordan to their Development League affiliate in Erie. This is Jordan’s second stint with the team.