Anthony scored 27 points — his highest output since Jan. 20 — and occasionally dazzled in a fourth-quarter rally Wednesday, only to have his team get routed, 118-105, by the . The loss was the Knicks’ third in a row and their sixth in nine games, leaving them three games below .500 and as confused as ever about how to regain their February magic.
“It’s hard to believe,” Anthony said of the team’s 18-21 record. “On paper, we’ve got a lot of guys on the team — on paper. It’s a matter of putting it together on the court and winning some basketball games.”
The Knicks are deeper than they have been in years, but they have struggled since Anthony, J. R. Smith and Baron Davis joined a crowded rotation two weeks ago. The success and the good feelings inspired by ’s sensational run last month have all but faded.
Anthony in particular has struggled to find himself and has hardly hidden his frustration. After scoring only 6 points in a loss to Dallas a night earlier — and publicly airing concerns over his role — he went on the attack Wednesday night. He was at his best in the fourth quarter, making 4 of 6 shots as the Knicks chopped a 24-point deficit to 12, but the game was effectively out of reach. Anthony was just 8 for 18 in the first three quarters.
“I was just being a little bit more aggressive,” he said. As for consistently finding scoring chances now that Lin is running the offense, Anthony said: “It’s going to happen. I’m not too concerned about that. I believe in Coach and how smart he is as a coach and the knowledge he has in the basketball game.”
Defense was the more pressing issue Wednesday. Tony Parker sliced through the Knicks’ lineup repeatedly, scoring 32 points, and Tim Duncan added 17 as they combined to make 18 of 30 shots. The Spurs scored 58 points in the first half, establishing a double-digit lead that they never surrendered. And they scored 60 points in the paint against a Knicks defense weakened by the absences of Tyson Chandler and Jared Jeffries, their two best interior defenders.
Chandler has a strained left hamstring and is day to day. Jeffries has a sore right knee and will miss at least one more game.
How much did their absence hurt the Knicks?
“Take a guess,” Coach said sarcastically. “They anchor our defense, and that’s why we improved from last year to this year — because of Tyson and Jared being in there.”
Josh Harrellson filled in for Chandler, and Iman Shumpert also rejoined the starting lineup in place of Landry Fields, as D’Antoni tried to reverse a trend of slow starts. The strategy failed, as the Knicks made only 9 of 25 shots in the first quarter and fell behind quickly.
Amar’e Stoudemire continued his resurgence with an 18-point, 11-rebound night and a brief third-quarter shoving match with DeJuan Blair that earned both players a technical foul. They were trumped by Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, who was ejected late in the period after blowing up at the referee James Williams.
Lin struggled against Parker and had a tough time scoring through the first three quarters. But he found a rhythm late in the game and finished with 20 points and 4 assists. Still, neither Lin nor the Knicks look like the team that stormed through February.
“Tough times,” Lin said. “But we don’t want to blow anything out of proportion. I don’t know how many games we’ve had with everyone healthy, but it hasn’t been a lot, probably five, six games. We’re not going to quit or anything. The world’s not coming to an end. We’re fine.”
Tyson Chandler’s hamstring injury happened in practice Monday, but it was not publicly disclosed and he played the next night in Dallas, against his former team. Mike D’Antoni said Chandler probably should not have played, “but obviously it was important for him to try to work through it.” Chandler wants to return for Friday’s game in Milwaukee, but he plans to be cautious. “I’m just kind of listening to the doctors at this point,” he said. “I’d rather be out there, but I’d rather not be out 3 to 4 weeks either.”… Chandler said it was overwhelming to hear the lavish praise from both D’Antoni and his former coach, Rick Carlisle, on Tuesday. “I’m the type of player that when you talk about me, it makes me a little uncomfortable,” he said, adding: “I try to go out and execute what my coach wants me to do and go out there and fight for my teammates. I’m always looking at and judging my performance by the way my coach and my teammates feel. For them to say the things they’ve been saying is very humbling, honestly.”