The Knicks opened 2013 with great anticipation as Amar'e Stoudemire made his season debut to a rousing standing ovation and Carmelo Anthony returned from a knee injury Tuesday night. But the Knicks' New Year's bash was a dud overall.
Anthony scored 45 points on one good leg, and Stoudemire had a couple of dunks that showed his surgically repaired left leg is feeling good. But they were wasted because the Knicks dug a huge hole early against an inferior team.
Anthony led them back but missed a potential tying three-pointer with 15.9 seconds left and the Knicks lost, 105-100, to the Trail Blazers at the Garden.
"You can't keep spotting teams 20-plus leads and think you're going to win,'' Mike Woodson said. "The last few games have been a disaster in terms of how we're starting games."
The Knicks (21-10) trailed by 19 in the first half and were down 96-81 with 4:34 left. Anthony, who sat out the previous two games with a hyperextended left knee scored 13 of his 19 fourth-quarter points in the last 4:20.
Anthony got the Knicks within 103-100 and launched a three-pointer from the right wing, but shot it long. Wesley Matthews made two foul shots with 13.1 seconds left to ice it. "I'll take that shot any time," Anthony said.
Nicolas Batum led Portland (16-14) with 26 points. Rookie point guard Damian Lillard had 21, including a three with 35.2 seconds to go to make it 103-97.
Anthony was 14-for-24 from the field and 12-for-14 from the foul line. He also was limping late in the game after a driving dunk that resulted in a three-point play. He said his knee ached, but expects to continue playing.
Stoudemire said his knee "felt phenomenal" after his first meaningful game since last season's playoffs. He entered with 3:31 left in the first quarter to a welcome he didn't expect.
"I almost shed a tear when I walked on the court," Stoudemire said. "I was nervous. My heart was beating fast. I had butterflies in my stomach. I felt like I was a rookie all over again."
Stoudemire, who had knee surgery Oct. 31, was rusty, as expected. He committed a turnover the first time he touched the ball and missed his first five shots. His first basket, a layup, came on a pass from Anthony off a pick-and-roll in the third. Later in the quarter, he threw down an emphatic, one-handed dunk off a feed from J.R. Smith (28 points). Stoudemire was 3-for-8, with six points and one rebound in 17 minutes.
"I felt very explosive," he said. "My timing was a little bit off, but as far as my legs and my explosiveness, I felt good. I had no restrictions at all. It's a great sign."
It's going to take some time for Stoudemire to feel comfortable and for his teammates to get used to playing with him, especially Anthony. The Knicks are 30-34 in the regular season when both play. But they weren't on the floor together that much, and the Knicks were down before Stoudemire entered the game.
"We've just got to keep working with him," Woodson said. "He was kind of rushing a little bit. You expect that. The guy's been sitting out a while and you throw him in there and he's excited to play. But he'll be fine. We'll get him back to the old Amar'e."
The Knicks' more immediate concern is their defense. They were down by 27 in the first half Friday in Sacramento and let Portland take control early.
"That's on me,'' Woodson said. "I've got to figure out why we're coming out flat.''