For a generally discombobulated team already trailing the by as much as 20 points, Anthony as the primary option seemed to be the only option. For a while, it worked, as Anthony scored 36 points, his most as a Knick.
Still, it was not enough for the Knicks to avoid tying a season high with their sixth consecutive loss. Despite Anthony’s outburst, the Knicks’ defense was again nonexistent and Anthony could not complete a fourth-quarter rally .
The Knicks (35-38) still have a healthy lead in the playoff race, but each loss continues to slice into that advantage. The Knicks, in a half games ahead of ninth-place Charlotte (30-42) with nine games left in the season. Indiana (32-42) is three and a half behind the Knicks.
D’Antoni adjusted his starting lineup Saturday, inserting Toney Douglas in place of Landry Fields, and noted some progress. But he conceded that at times, he was still experimenting.
“It’s not a consistent thing from night to night that I know I can count on that and count on this,” he said, “and that’s where we kind of get in trouble. I’m grasping at straws a little bit, and hopefully, I can settle down and not do that.”
The loss was the Knicks’ ninth in 10 games, the worst 10-game stretch since Amar’e Stoudemire joined the organization last summer and pronounced that the Knicks were back. Stoudemire finished with 14 points, taking 13 shots.
“I can’t really put my finger on it,” Stoudemire said. “We’re trying to figure it out as a team. It’s a work in progress.”
Their issues stretch wide, from offense to defense, and philosophies and mentalities. The Knicks traded for Anthony so he could star alongside Stoudemire and the superstar tandem could eventually pull alongside the Eastern Conference’s supreme teams. The Knicks fell to 7-12 since the trade.
“Talent-wise, we’ve got a lot of talent,” said Chauncey Billups, who also arrived in last month’s trade and had 14 points and 10 assists. “But as you know, talent isn’t everything. Camaraderie, cohesiveness and being a good team beats talent any day of the week.”
The Knicks displayed none of those assets early. Charlotte raced to a season-high 64 points in the first half. After the Knicks spent the third quarter trying to get in striking distance, Anthony nailed consecutive 3-pointers to cut the Knicks’ deficit to 100-95 in the fourth quarter. Fields’s free throw closed the gap to 4 points with 1 minute 34 seconds remaining, but the Knicks did not score again. Billups, Fields and Anthony closed the game by missing four shots.
“Offensively, I’m not worried about that,” Anthony said. “I’m not worried about me trying to fit in into the quote, unquote system that we’re supposed to have. I’m not worried about that. It’s just one of those games, where if you take the second quarter out, we win the basketball game.” The Knicks were outscored by 34-20 in the second quarter.
D’Antoni inserted Fields to start the second half, and Shelden Williams, who had 10 points and 9 rebounds, replaced Shawne Williams.
D’Antoni noted improvement because the Knicks outscored the Bobcats in the fourth quarter, 27-22, and topped 100 points for the first time in six games. They shot only 5 for 20 in the final quarter but made 15 of 17 free throws.
To make up for the gaping defensive holes, the Knicks would have needed to play a perfect offensive game. Instead, they missed 22 of their 28 3-point attempts. Anthony was 3 for 10 outside the arc and 10 for 15 inside it.
“I don’t care how good your offense is — you really have to score 120 points to beat a team like that, and that’s just too much pressure on your offense,” Billups said. “Our defense at the end of the day is going to make or break us, I believe.
“We’re switching back and forth just trying to make it happen, and we do certain schemes for a certain part of the game, or for a different team we switch up. At the end of the day, really, you’ve got to be good enough to switch two or three different schemes and not miss a beat, and we’re just not good enough to do that right now.”
Boris Diaw had a team-high 20 points to lead a franchise-record eight Bobcats in double digits.
“To have that many men score in double figures is just unbelievable,” said Paul Silas, Charlotte’s coach. “We needed this so bad and that team needed it also, so it was whoever wanted it the most, and we obviously did.”
The Knicks’ Ronny Turiaf missed his 15th game this season. He sat Saturday with a painful left ankle.