Anthony had just completed a 3-point play with 8 minutes 56 minutes to play to bring the Knicks to within 80-78. With 8:40 left, he gathered up the loose ball after a steal, a defensive gem to go with his offensive gem of a night (36 points). But that was when he hurt himself, and he did not score another field goal as the Hawks pulled away for in Philips Arena. It was only the second loss in 10 games for the Knicks since Mike Woodson took over as their interim coach.
The Knicks are 26-26, in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But they will play the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night with serious injury concerns.
Point guard (left knee) did not play for the third straight game and forward Amar’e Stoudemire (back) might not be back for the rest of the regular season. The veteran guard Baron Davis was supposed to take over for Lin, but he had ice packs on his back and hamstring after the game and was ineffective Friday night (24 minutes, 4 points, 4 assists, 4 turnovers).
The Knicks may also have to deal with a sudden injury to center Tyson Chandler, who said after the game that he also felt some pain in his groin. Chandler was 2 of 4 from the field in 40 minutes and could not find any room to make himself available for passes.
The Knicks can survive without Lin, Stoudemire and Davis. They cannot survive without Anthony, who is rejuvenated and a force again. He made 11 of 24 field-goal attempts and 13 of 14 free throws to go along with 9 rebounds and 5 steals.
“I felt it a little,” Anthony said of the injury. “It was one of those plays where I stripped the ball from Josh and saved it from going out of bounds and I felt it a little bit and didn’t want to hurt it more than it was hurt. For the most part it felt pretty good, up until that point.
“It takes away my power, especially under the basket, my lift. There wasn’t too much I could pretty much do.”
Without Anthony to carry them, the Knicks faded. He missed a 25-foot 3-pointer and a 9-foot fadeaway and the Hawks’ lead grew to 6, then 8, then 10.
The Knicks found a remedy for Davis’s absence in the rookie Iman Shumpert, who scored 25 points in his return to Atlanta, where he played for Georgia Tech. But no one else scored in double figures for the Knicks.
Under Woodson, sticky defense has become the Knicks’ trump card, but the Hawks shot 50 percent from the field and the journeyman guard Willie Green scored 20 points and made 8 of 9 shots.
Joe Johnson added 28 points for Atlanta, which improved to 31-22.
Woodson talked about things that were correctable after the loss. He mentioned turnovers (18) and missed free throws (11). What is not correctable is the unforgiving N.B.A. schedule in this lockout-shortened season.
“There’s no time for recovery,” Davis said. He grimaced as he shifted his body weight in front of his locker.
“Just frustrated, frustrated, real frustrated,” he said. “Tonight I wasn’t able to get the push that I needed. I have to find ways to make adjustments. I have a pulled hamstring, so it’s not like I’m able to have the balance. No excuses.”
He acknowledged that he played poorly.
Lin did not speak with the news media before or after the game, and it is not certain how badly his left knee is hurt. Woodson did not sound hopeful that Lin would play Saturday.
“He was out shooting today,” Woodson said. “We just got to take it one day at time and see how he’s doing. When he tells me he is ready to go, that’s going to put a smile on my face.”
There was no smiling from Woodson on his return to Atlanta. He was fired by the Hawks after they were dismissed easily in the playoffs in 2010 by the Orlando Magic, but he took some local knowledge with him: how to defend the high-flying Josh Smith.
Smith carved up the Knicks for 17 points in the first half, but Woodson employed double teams against him after halftime. Smith forced shots and committed turnovers, and the Knicks scrambled back in the game, only to have their night ruined by Green and the suddenly gimpy Anthony.