Those were Coach ’s words before tip-off, when he was discussing the Knicks’ rotating door at point guard. But it soon applied to the entire rotation as the Knicks dragged through their fourth road game in five nights, in search of anyone who could score or provide a spark.
They never found one and absorbed to the , concluding a 1-3 trip that dropped the Knicks (7-13) a season-worst six games under .500.
Frustration was evident in a visitors locker room filled with long faces and low voices.
“I refuse to have a losing season like that,” Tyson Chandler said. “We have to do what it takes. I don’t care what it is. I really don’t. But I refuse. I refuse to go through a losing season like that. Like I said, we got to man up.”
Players declined to blame the schedule, fatigue or their depleted roster, although all were heavy factors on the final night of this trip. sat out his second straight game to rest ankle, wrist and thumb injuries, leaving Amar’e Stoudemire to anchor a lineup bereft of reliable scorers.
It forced D’Antoni to make some unconventional choices as the game wore on.
Jeremy Lin, a seldom-used point guard, played critical minutes for the first time, entering the game in the third quarter. Lin, Renaldo Balkman and Steve Novak — all marginal N.B.A. players — started the fourth quarter, with the Knicks trailing by 15 points.
“Anything,” D’Antoni said, when asked what he was looking for. “Just a little spark of anything.”
All the hunting and pecking went for naught, and the Rockets quickly pushed the lead to 20 points. The Knicks have lost 9 of their last 10 games, three without Anthony, increasing the heat on D’Antoni.
“We’re just playing awful,” the coach said.
The game underlined the Knicks’ alarming lack of depth, and was indicative of just how challenging D’Antoni’s task is. The Rockets won with superb efforts from their bench and from a fill-in starter, Courtney Lee, who replaced the injured Kevin Martin.
Lee (14 points) and Goran Dragic (16 points) could start for the Knicks, who continue to get virtually nothing from their starting backcourt. Landry Fields went scoreless in 18 minutes 24 seconds, missing the only two shots he took. Toney Douglas had 7 points, going 3 for 13. Houston also got 19 points from Chase Budinger, and 14 points and 11 rebounds from Jordan Hill, a former Knicks draft pick.
“Their bench killed us,” D’Antoni said. “We had a nice thing going the first half, and then their bench came in and really caught fire.”
The game was lost in the third quarter, when the Knicks scored only 14 points and fell behind by double digits. They shot 38.2 percent for the game and wasted one of Stoudemire’s better performances, a 23-point, 8-rebound effort.
Chandler was the only other Knick who brought any consistent effort, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds. He was also the Knicks’ most animated player, whether keeping possessions alive or barking at the officials and teammates (often for missing defensive assignments). He picked up a technical foul at the end of the third quarter for complaining about a noncall on his desperation shot at the buzzer.
“But for the most part, just frustrated, man,” Chandler said. “It’s tough losing, tough losing to teams you know you’re supposed to beat.”
The Knicks had left Miami late Friday night with a renewed sense of confidence after battling the Heat down to the final minutes. By Saturday, the energy and the good feelings were gone.
The Knicks hope to have Anthony back in the lineup Tuesday when they return home to play the Detroit Pistons. But there was no update on his status Saturday and no word from Anthony himself, who did not sit on the bench during the game and was not available to reporters.
It was left to Chandler and Stoudemire to try to explain another loss and to assess the state of the team.
“The only thing that’ll put a smile on my face is my kids, and my kids are not in New York,” Stoudemire said. “So it’s not a great feeling right now.”
Baron Davis probably will not make his Knicks debut for another week or two, according to people familiar with his rehabilitation. Davis, who is recovering from a herniated disk, is considered physically sound, but he is still working his way back into basketball shape after nine months of relative inactivity. Davis just began practicing last Monday, and he has been scrimmaging full court.