As if things weren’t going badly enough for the Knicks on Saturday night, there was the sight of Carmelo Anthony, most of his face covered by a towel, remaining on the bench and failing to return to the game because of soreness in his surgically repaired left knee.
Anthony downplayed it after the Knicks were outplayed and outworked for the second straight night and lost to the Hornets, 97-84, in Charlotte. But it’s been a rough two weeks for Anthony physically, and the amount of pounding his knee has taken could be reason for concern.
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After missing two games with a sprained ankle, Anthony returned to play a season-high 49 and 42 minutes in a double-overtime win last Monday and an overtime victory Wednesday. Before that, he had played 40 minutes only twice this season.
“It’s just general soreness,” he said. “I don’t think it’s nothing to worry about. I’m not too concerned. It will just be about healing and getting back right.
“The good thing is we don’t play again until Tuesday, so I’ve got two days to try and get ready for that.”
The Knicks are 0-4 without Anthony.
The Knicks host Oklahoma City on Tuesday night in what could be Kevin Durant’s last visit to the Garden in a Thunder uniform. The Knicks are expected to be one of the teams lining up to sign Durant if he leaves Oklahoma City, but their most immediate need is at point guard.
It’s been a weakness all season, and particularly last week. Smaller, quicker guards who can change direction got to the basket whenever they wanted or got shots for their teammates. They included Ish Smith, Isaiah Canaan, Chris Paul, Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin.
The Knicks could pursue Mike Conley Jr. or Brandon Jennings before the trade deadline but might have a better shot to get either in free agency.
The Hornets led 77-56 after three quarters, and Anthony did not play in the fourth. Derek Fisher said he wasn’t sure if Anthony would have returned even if his knee had allowed him to do so because the Knicks weren’t playing with energy anyway. It was the second consecutive game in which they fell behind by at least 21.
The Knicks put up little resistance one night earlier, falling behind by 31 in their most lopsided defeat of the season, a 28-point loss to the Clippers at the Garden.
“We had the same game [Friday] night, and [this] was a similar game,” Anthony said. “We just weren’t there. In this league, there are ups and downs and sometimes it goes left and sometimes it goes right. We’ve got to right this ship.”
The Knicks are 22-24. They’ve had opportunities to go above .500 for the first time since November twice in the past two weeks, and they lost each time. They might not get the opportunity again if Anthony is limited or misses time or the team doesn’t right the ship.
The schedule now gets tough again. Seven of the Knicks’ remaining nine games before the All-Star break are against teams with better records.
“On one hand, we are definitely feeling the impact of the minutes, the schedule, and guys have been playing heavier minutes as we tighten up the rotation,” Fisher said. “I think we are definitely feeling the impact of that. At the same time, I think we are feeling the impact of a little bit of success and how much more it requires to go beyond the next barrier.
“How do you go beyond a .500 team? How do you get to a point where you can break through? It requires more sacrifice, more discipline, more commitment and more energy. We have to keep plugging to find a way.”