Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire walked off the court at the end of the third quarter Sunday with the Knicks trailing by 16 points. They never got back in the game as the Knicks lost to the 76ers, 106-94.
Mike D'Antoni said he wasn't trying to make a statement by sitting his two stars. The Knicks, who face the Bulls in Chicago tonight, trailed by double digits for the entire fourth quarter. The closest they got was 10 points with 1:20 left.
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"In the sense that these guys [on the floor] were fighting, they had us back, I just didn't feel like it was fair to them to take them out and try something else," D'Antoni said.
Neither player said he was upset with the decision, but Anthony sounded confused.
"I really don't know what was Coach's mind-set," said Anthony, who finished with 22 points in 29:07. "Maybe he was trying to save us for tomorrow. I'm not sure. That's something you have to ask him."
Asked if he was miffed, Anthony said: "I was fine. I guess he was saving me for tomorrow's game. That was the mindset out there."
The Knicks' deficit actually swelled to 21 with less than nine minutes to go before the fourth-quarter unit clicked. The Knicks have seen several late comebacks fall short during their five-game losing streak, including one in Dallas on Tuesday that fizzled after D'Antoni put Anthony back in the game.
"I did that in Dallas," D'Antoni said of putting the starters back in. "If the guys are going to fight that hard and bring you back, I'm going to give them the chance to finish it up."
The Knicks outscored the 76ers 21-17 in the quarter, with Smith scoring seven of his 12 points. Lin and Novak had five each. But the Knicks never made Philadelphia sweat down the stretch.
"You try something," D'Antoni said. "You try something different . . . Energy and everything was going pretty good, so that's why I left it in there."
Anthony, who scored 12 points in the first quarter, had eight in the third -- all from the foul line -- but the 76ers took control of the game with a 38-24 quarter. Overall, Anthony shot 5-for-13. He also had nine rebounds.
Stoudemire was quiet for most of the afternoon. He shot 4-for-9 and added five rebounds.
"I didn't take it personally," he said of sitting out the fourth. "I mean, the second unit was playing well. Any time the second unit goes out and plays well, that's what we want. So if we have a chance to win down the stretch, I'm pretty sure Coach would have gone back with us. The second unit played well. They came with the energy, so let them play."
One clue that D'Antoni didn't consider the game out of hand in the fourth: He left Chandler in for the whole quarter even though the center missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury and is playing with a sore wrist.