This time there was no magical performance by a rookie. This time there was no rousing victory without the team leader. This time there was no hiding how much this Knicks team is dependent on Amar'e Stoudemire.
Two days after beating a bad team on the road, the Knicks lost to a mediocre one at home, dropping a 90-85 decision to the Toronto Raptors Monday night with the injured Stoudemire sitting out his second straight game.
All this happened despite Carmelo Anthony's powerhouse night. Anthony scored 35 points, shooting 13-for-31, and had 11 rebounds and four assists.
Anthony, however, missed a three-pointer with 13.2 seconds left that could have tied the score at 88. Former Knick Anthony Carter then hit two free throws for the final margin.
There was a fair amount of confusion on what was supposed to go down after the Knicks called a timeout with 17.7 seconds left. Mike D'Antoni said the three-pointer Anthony took was not what they were looking for. "We forgot the play," he said. "It's a learning experience. It just didn't work out."
Anthony said D'Antoni had wanted him to go quick and that he felt as though he should take it. "It is what it is," he said, "and I missed it. Right now, I can't even remember the play."
Stoudemire sprained an ankle against the Lakers on Thursday night, but the Knicks were able to beat Sacramento on Saturday night thanks to rookie Josh Harrellson, who filled in for Stoudemire and had 14 points and 12 rebounds in his first NBA start.
This game was nothing like that one, however. Harrellson scored only two points in 33 minutes and the Knicks' reserves had only 10 in the game. The bench was dreadful in the second quarter as the Knicks were outscored 29-11.
"I thought the whole first half our energy was down; we didn't play hard," D'Antoni said.
Anthony was the Knicks' only reliable scorer, though Toney Douglas finished with 22 points and Tyson Chandler had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Toronto was led by Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan, who scored 21 points each.
Thanks to a horrible first half in which the Knicks shot 28.2 percent, the Raptors were able to build a 51-34 lead at the break.
That should not have been a great deterrent, as Toronto had blown a 16-point lead against the Magic on Sunday. Maybe this was pointed out to the Knicks in the third quarter, because after falling behind 54-36, they went on a 20-5 tear to pull within 59-56. They got within a point twice in the final minute of the game on a drive by Anthony and a dunk by Chandler but could never tie it.
The Knicks find themselves in a tough position with Stoudemire's injury. They don't want him to go through the same wear-and-tear he did last season, when he carried them during the regular season but hurt his back in the playoffs. But in a lockout-shortened schedule, they need to take advantage of the relatively easy games they have during the next two weeks.
Stoudemire said before the game that he could be back Wednesday night against the Bobcats but that there are no guarantees.