With Carmelo Anthony out, Knicks routed by Thunder
As bad as the Knicks have been this season, their Christmas Day game against the Thunder at least was set to match the players who have combined to win the last four NBA scoring titles: Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.
But when word came before tipoff that Anthony would not play because of a sprained ankle, whatever buzz was left around the game evaporated, and fans watching at the Garden braced for the worst.
They got it in the form of a 123-94 blowout -- the worst loss for a home team playing on Christmas in NBA history, according to ESPN.
As good as Anthony is, the Knicks -- who also were missing point guard Raymond Felton -- did not expect to be that bad without him. So what exactly is wrong with them?
"There are a lot of holes," center Tyson Chandler said. "If I started going over them all, I wouldn't make it home and allow my kids to open their gifts."
Chandler actually was answering a question about a defense that allowed Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka to shoot a combined 20-for-30 in scoring 29 and 24 points and Russell Westbrook to record a triple double -- all before coach Scott Brooks sat them down for the entire fourth quarter.
But he just as easily could have been referring to everything about a team that fell spectacularly flat before a national television audience in a time slot that traditionally rates very highly.
It is unclear how much additional time Anthony will miss, if any.
"It's tough going to war without your general," said J.R. Smith, who scored 20 points on 22 shots and heard boos aimed at him, as did the team in general. There also were brief chants urging the Knicks to fire coach Mike Woodson.
"Yeah, I hear them," Smith said. "They're just fans. When we lose they're going to boo; when we win they're going to cheer. That's just the way the game goes."
Said Chandler: "I'm disappointed [along] with them. My disappointment probably outweighs theirs. It is what it is. They come here to see a show and come here to see a team play hard and I understand it. I come here to play hard."
Later Durant noted how quiet the Garden was. There was little to cheer. Amar'e Stoudemire scored 22 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. 21, but 22 of their combined points came during garbage time in the fourth quarter.
The Knicks' plan was to trap Durant and force others to beat them, but nothing worked. The Thunder (23-5) moved the ball with alacrity, finishing with 32 assists, 10 from Westbrook, who also had 14 points and 13 rebounds.
"I thought defensively it just wasn't there tonight," said Woodson, whose team fell to 4-11 at home and to 0-7 when wearing orange uniforms.
Oklahoma City outscored the Knicks by at least six points in every quarter and led by as many as 31. Woodson said the absence of Anthony was no excuse for a loss of such magnitude.
"They're an experienced team with all their pieces and we're a team right now that's struggling a little bit because we're short-handed," he said. "But I don't see that as being a 30-point loss. That's what's disappointing."
Despite everything, the Knicks (9-19) remain only three games behind the first-place Raptors in the Atlantic Division and face them in a home-and-home series this weekend.
We'll see if that is a gift the Knicks are prepared to open.