It was, of course, about all of it, every last emotional twinge and every debated point.
It had been 11 months since the Knicks sent four starters to Denver to get Anthony, forever altering both franchises. The Nuggets surged. The Knicks wobbled. Opinions were formed.
Anthony worked overtime — two of them — to change perceptions Saturday night, only to see his former team skip away with a 119-114 victory at Madison Square Garden. Anthony was erratic for three quarters, heroic in the fourth, but off-kilter in two overtime periods as the Knicks lost their sixth straight game, the last four at home.
Denver is now 30-12 since trading Anthony. The Knicks are 20-24, 6-10 this season, every loss undermining Coach Mike D’Antoni’s job security.
Anthony had 25 points and 10 rebounds Saturday, but he was 10 for 30 from the field, extending his prolonged shooting funk. He was thoroughly outplayed by Danilo Gallinari, the key player sent to Denver in the trade, who had a career-best 37 points.
Afterward, Anthony sat at his locker, sighed deeply and picked pieces of medical tape from his sprained left wrist. Then he offered an eight-minute confessional, wondering aloud for the first time about his shot selection, his decision-making and everything else.
“I’ve been in situations like this before, when shots don’t go in,” said Anthony, who is 35 for 105 over the last four games and is also dealing with a sprained right ankle. “Maybe I need to not take so many shots. I don’t know. That’s just a bunch of stuff that goes through my mind. Just coming down, taking less shots, just figuring out ways, how to make other guys better. Should I pass it more?”
He added: “Maybe I should take the blame for the games we’ve been losing, the offensive struggles. The coaches do run the offense through me. I’ll take it. I’ll take that blame.”
The Knicks’ offense has been shockingly poor all season, and Anthony’s dominating of the ball has been a persistent — if vaguely addressed — concern. Coaches and players have spoken generally about the need for more ball movement, without being specific, although he is clearly the main culprit on most nights.
On Saturday, fans started booing Anthony’s missed shots in the second half, which was also a first.
“I’m not too concerned about that,” he said, vowing that he will fulfill the grand expectations that came with the trade.
“Things will still be great,” he said. “I’m not down, I’m not regretting anything. I’m not regretting the trade. I’m here. You want to boo me for missing shots, boo me.”
Despite everything, Anthony shot the Knicks back into the game and nearly led them to victory, scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter and overtimes.
The problems Saturday extended well beyond Anthony’s struggles. The Knicks lost Josh Harrellson, their rookie big man, to a fractured right wrist, which will require surgery. He is expected to be out for about six weeks.
The Knicks played the final overtime without Tyson Chandler, who fouled out, and Iman Shumpert, who had cramps in his legs and back because of dehydration. It has been an ongoing issue for Shumpert, who took intravenous fluids after the game.
With the offense again stalling, Amar’e Stoudemire scored only 12 points and did not take a shot after the third quarter until hitting a desperation 3-pointer with nine seconds left in the second overtime.
“We had a chance to win,” Stoudemire said. “It’s all about winning with me. It’s not about numbers.”
Gallinari, the Knicks’ lottery pick in 2008, had 9 points in the second overtime to seal the victory. Timofey Mozgov, who was also acquired in the Anthony deal, had 16 points and 7 rebounds as the Nuggets (12-5) won their fourth in a row.
Anthony struggled all night, but he found his compass in the final minutes of regulation, attacking the basket and leading the Knicks back from a 6-point deficit. He scored 8 points in the final 2 minutes 20 seconds and tied the score at 98-98 with 1.7 seconds left.
Anthony went 2 for 12 in the first three quarters, but made 8 of 18 shots in the final 22 minutes. Al Harrington, another former Knick, had 24 points for the Nuggets, including several key shots in the overtime periods.
The Nuggets were playing their fourth game in five nights, all on the road, and they were without both of their shooting guards, Arron Afflalo (groin) and Rudy Fernandez (Achilles). Afflalo was injured a night earlier, in a victory over Washington.
So the Knicks figured to have a distinct advantage, or at least should have. They had a 12-point lead in the second quarter and an 8-point edge in the third but could not hold on.
Denver’s leading scorers at halftime were Gallinari (15 points) and Mozgov (10 points) — two of the four players the Knicks sent to Denver last February.
They could have been Anthony’s teammates — along with Raymond Felton — had he waited for free agency to join the Knicks, rather than forcing a trade aimed at securing a $65 million extension.
Team officials have set Monday as the target for Baron Davis to start practicing with the team, barring any unexpected setbacks. Davis has been recovering for months from a herniated disk and has been gradually increasing his activity over the last week. He may not officially be cleared until Monday morning, however, so the team is refraining from making any public pronouncement until then. “I’m hoping,” Mike D’Antoni said, “but that’s not for sure.” If all goes well, Davis could join the rotation in the next week.