PHILADELPHIA - Carmelo Anthony said he never had seen anything quite like it.
One minute, he was on the bench, waiting out a laugher, his trademark headband long since tossed aside, and the next, he was turning to teammate Toure' Murry, asking to borrow his headband to return to the game.
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"I just looked at him and he was like, 'You sure?' '' Anthony recalled when it was over and he was able to laugh about it. "I said, 'Yeah. I need it just for a couple of seconds.' ''
Actually, it was 32.5 seconds, just after the Knicks' lead had been cut from 17 to two. But they held on, 93-92, earning their eighth straight win and handing the 76ers their 23rd straight loss.
Before recounting the particulars, let's look at the big picture:
Fresh off their upset of the Pacers on Phil Jackson Homecoming Night on Wednesday, the Knicks (29-40) returned to their tour of NBA draft lottery candidates and again left with a win to remain in the playoff picture. With 13 to play, the Knicks are four games behind the seventh-place Bobcats and the eighth-place Hawks in the loss column.
Meanwhile, the 76ers (15-54) are three defeats from the NBA record for longest losing streak, 26 by the 2010-11 Cavaliers. They are tied for the third-longest such streak, with tough games upcoming against the Bulls, Spurs and Rockets.
Philadelphia last won Jan. 29, before the Super Bowl, the Olympics and baseball spring training.
The Knicks led 91-74 with just over five minutes left, leading coach Mike Woodson to remove his starters and give some "young bucks'' a chance. Oops. The 76ers promptly scored 16 of the next 17 points.
Woodson said he did not consider reinserting his regulars until Thaddeus Young's three-pointer drew Philadelphia within 92-90 with 32.9 seconds left.
"I figured we could make it happen, but when we were up five and Thaddeus hit the three, I had no choice,'' Woodson said. "They scared the hell out of me.''
After Tim Hardaway Jr. missed a three-pointer, the 76ers had a chance to tie or go ahead when they inbounded with 13.6 seconds left, but James Anderson threw a pass out of bounds with 8.6 seconds to play.
Anthony was fouled and made only the first of two free throws, opening the door to a potential tying three-pointer by Michael Carter-Williams (22 points). It rattled in and out with about one second left, and Young (21 points) put in the rebound for a meaningless two-pointer.
Anthony shook his head as he left the floor. "You just see the lead dwindle possession by possession,'' he said."You go from being up 16 and you look up and we're only up two with a couple of seconds on the clock.''
Amar'e Stoudemire continued his resurgence with 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks. Anthony had 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists and Tyson Chandler added 17 points and 10 rebounds.
It should have been better, but it could have been worse. Much worse.
"Once we cleared the bench and tried to get other guys involved, of course guys were thinking it was a cakewalk,'' J.R. Smith said.
Said Woodson, "I just have to get our young bucks to understand time, score and situation.''
Next time, he might well decide not to give them the chance.