Carmelo Anthony was back on the floor. Phil Jackson was back in his regular seat. Yet neither addition was enough to push the Knicks into the win column as they lost to the Miami Heat, 86-79, Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
Anthony scored 31 points in 41 minutes after missing the previous two games with back spams. Anthony, who didn't decide to play until Sunday morning, was 11-for-26 from the floor.
"We were there," he said. "I thought for the most part, our effort was much better than it had been over the last couple of games . . . It just comes down to execution at the end of the game."
Jackson, the team president and advocate of the triangle offense, couldn't have been thrilled with what he saw in his first game at the Garden since he watched his team beat the Nuggets two weeks ago.
The Knicks trailed the entire game but managed to make it a two-point game with 1:25 left when Amar'e Stoudemire tipped in Shane Larkin's miss.
After Chris Bosh hit a three-pointer with 28 seconds remaining, the Knicks' hopes completely faded when Anthony threw a long, hard pass to Tim Hardaway Jr., who dropped the ball and watched it slip out of bounds with 22 seconds left.
The loss was the Knicks' fourth straight and 13th in the last 15 games, dropping their record to 4-14.
The Heat (9-7) was led by Dwyane Wade's 27 points, five rebounds and five assists. Bosh contributed 20 points and nine rebounds and Luol Deng had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Anthony originally was listed as doubtful for the game. His back pain had been so severe that he said he was unable to talk to his teammates last Monday.
The Knicks have struggled all season, but they looked particularly lost at times in their two games without Anthony. The first game was an overtime loss to Dallas and former Knick Tyson Chandler. The second was their lowest-scoring game and most lopsided defeat of the season, a 105-78 loss at Oklahoma City on Friday.
After the Oklahoma City game, a frustrated Stoudemire called out his teammates, saying there had been a lack of effort and desire in the game.
Stoudemire, who scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against the Heat, did not back down from those comments after Sunday night's game.
"At this point I just think we have to look ourselves in the mirror and see if we put forth the effort that we need to win," he said. "Individually, we got to take it upon ourselves to see if we're bringing forth the effort or seeing if we're prepared for the game or having the right mental attitude to play the game at a high level. So at this point individually, we have to take a look at ourselves to see if we're able to compete at a high level."
Stoudemire was asked if it was frustrating for him to call out his teammates for a lack of effort and then have a game in which they didn't respond.
"I don't know whether it takes time for guys to figure it out or what have you," he said. "But we have to realize that we have to have a sense of urgency very soon so once we understand the importance of every game, every possession, it can turn around."
Stoudemire and Anthony were the only players to score in double figures against the Heat. J.R Smith, who hasn't been feeling well but tried to play, according to coach Derek Fisher, shot 0-for-4 in six minutes.