Carmelo Anthony’s return to Madison Square Garden at least represented a familiar experience from much of his New York tenure, replete with a mixture of boos and cheers from the hometown crowd and another disappointing loss in the standings for his team.
Anthony was held without a point in the second half, enabling the retooled Knicks to completely steal his Thunder — and impressively prevail without an injured Kristaps Porzingis for the first time in five tries this season – with a 111-96 victory on Saturday night over Oklahoma City.
“We wanted this one. I’m not going to sit here and lie,” a dejected Anthony said afterward. “It was a fun game. We wanted this one. But for us it’s a bigger picture, so we move on.”
Michael Beasley pumped in a season-high tying 30 points, Courtney Lee finished with 20, and the two players obtained from the Thunder for Anthony — Doug McDermott (13) and Enes Kanter (10) – also scored in double figures as the surging Knicks (16-13) posted their fourth straight win.
Russell Westbrook paced OKC (14-15) with 25, but Anthony missed 13 of 18 shots from the field, including all five attempts over the final two quarters, and finished with just 12 points.
“It feels really good. This game was kind of about him,” McDermott said of Anthony. “And I thought we did a great job of not really letting that distract us and just focused on winning the game. It felt great to be a part of it, especially being a part of the trade with Enes.”
Carmelo Anthony garnered mostly applause when introduced as the final member of the visiting starting lineup following a one-minute scoreboard video tribute before the game.
Carmelo garnered mostly applause – drowning out a smattering of boos – amid a partial standing ovation when introduced as the final member of the visiting starting lineup following a one-minute scoreboard video tribute before the game. He made sure to express gratitude to the Knicks’ front office for the gesture.
“There wasn’t a tear, but I was actually surprised that it happened,” Anthony said. “Coming back here, knowing the goals that I had, what I wanted to accomplish here and falling short in that category –also being on the flip side now, being on another team – it was a bittersweet situation for me.”
To that end, Anthony certainly didn’t blame the sellout crowd for typically letting the 10-time All-Star forward have it with vociferous jeers from the first time he touched the ball and virtually every time he possessed it thereafter.
“That was expected. The boos were expected,” Anthony said with a smile. “They can’t cheer for me. I’m on another team. I’m glad that after the video montage got out of the way it was back to business.”
Even before team president Phil Jackson was canned in July, the Knicks had made the business decision to move on from Anthony and rebuild around Porzingis. The incoming front-office regime finally convinced him to waive his no-trade clause and accept a deal to Oklahoma City in September, netting the Knicks two useful rotation regulars in Kanter, their starting center, and McDermott, a versatile forward.
Russell Westbrook paced OKC with 25.
With second-leading scorer Tim Hardaway Jr. (leg injury) still sidelined, Porzingis also sat out with a sore left knee sustained Thursday in Brooklyn. But he leads the Knicks with a 25.5 point scoring average in a more up-tempo system than the triangle offense coach Jeff Hornacek was forced to run under Jackson.
“I can’t talk about that. I can’t speak on that,” Anthony said when asked about the departed Zen Master. “I don’t know what would have happened to be honest with you. I try not to think about that. I put that chapter behind me.”
Of course, even with the offseason additions of Anthony and Paul George (18 points) to Westbrook, the reigning league MVP, the Thunder slipped to 14-15 on the season – two games behind the Knicks.
“I like what I see,” Anthony said of his former team. “I like what they have going on over there. For me just to see those guys having fun again, knowing that it wasn’t fun, the fun was lost over the past couple of seasons.
“To see those guys having fun again, bringing that energy, bringing that love back to the game, back to the Garden, is something that I’m happy for those guys when it comes to that.”