GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Knicks were down after a 17-win season and were left out of the Christmas Day lineup last season. But when the schedule came out for this season, Carmelo Anthony saw a Christmas gift: Knicks vs. Celtics at Madison Square Garden at noon on Sunday, Dec. 25.
“Yeah, I was excited about that, just to kind of get back on Christmas, play in the Garden in New York,” Anthony said after practice Saturday morning at the MSG Training Center. “It’s a great time to be a Knick right now, just to have the opportunity to play in a historic day and historic moment against the Celtics.
“New York-Boston in anything is a special night, whether it’s baseball, basketball, football.”
Or a special day, in this case.
The record-holder for appearances on Christmas Day is none other than the Knicks with 50. They have won 22 and lost 28.
Derrick Rose became a Knick this season, but when he was on Chicago’s side in 2010, the Knicks managed to survive the point guard’s 25 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals. Not that Rose has total recall from any of his Christmas work shifts.
“I don’t remember the games, but I just remember the moments, actually playing on Christmas,” Rose said. “It’s just an honor. It’s something where . . . everybody’s at home watching you play in the league. That’s a big deal.”
Anthony scored 37 points to help the Knicks beat Boston, 106-104, at the Garden on Christmas in 2011, which was the first game of the season after a 161-day lockout. That was the last Christmas game the Knicks won. They dropped three straight before last season’s hiatus.
The Knicks stood at 14-16 on Christmas Day in 2015 and were on their way to a 32-50 record and a third straight season without a playoff berth. But with the addition of Rose to form a Big Three with Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis, plus a sturdier bench, they are off to a 16-13 beginning to this story.
The Celtics are 17-13, a half-game ahead. This game is a chance for the Knicks to pass them, move into second in the Atlantic Division and tie the Hornets for third in the Eastern Conference.
“But I try not to kind of look at the standings yet,” Anthony said. “We understand where we’re at, where we stand and kind of how we’re controlling our own destiny at this point.”
Boston was in control in the previous game with the Knicks, a 115-87 decision at TD Garden on Nov. 11. Anthony was ejected after scoring 12 points in his 12 minutes and 11 seconds.
“That was kind of early in the season,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We weren’t playing great at that point. We’re playing much better now.”
Notes & quotes: Porzingis bruised his right knee during the Knicks’ win over Orlando on Thursday night but said he’s good to go. “I think the inflammation is gone,” he said. “It’s still a little sensitive. Once I was warm, I didn’t really feel anything.” . . . Former Nuggets coach George Karl ripped Anthony in his new book, saying he was “a user of people” when he played for Denver, among other criticisms. Anthony, however, continues to decline to fire back. “I’m happy, man,” he said. “I’m in a good place.” Anthony was especially happy that former teammate Kenyon Martin, who also was criticized, fired back at Karl repeatedly on Twitter on Thursday. “It’s good to hear that, not just coming from me and trying to be defensive and trying to take up for myself,” Anthony said . . . Anthony said the players picked names out of a hat for “Secret Santa,” their gift-giving tradition with each other.