The Knicks' one constant in this exasperating season has been Carmelo Anthony, who has averaged 26.3 points and 39.4 minutes. Wednesday, even that given was gone.
About 45 minutes before tipoff against the Thunder at Madison Square Garden the Knicks announced that their star forward would miss the game because of the left ankle sprain he suffered against the Magic in Orlando Monday night.
Anthony's absence left the short-handed Knicks even less armed against one of the league's best teams, leading to a 123-94 loss.
"He said he couldn't go," coach Mike Woodson said. "When he tells you he can't go you have to listen and try to find it somewhere else. He was really missed, because he's a big part of what we do."
Said guard J.R. Smith: "He's a big piece to this puzzle. He's the piece to this puzzle. It's just tough when he's not playing."
With Anthony sidelined others tried to pick up the slack, notably Smith, who shot 8-for-22 for 20 points; he was booed at times by the restless crowd.
Was Smith trying to force things to fill the scoring gap?
"Not so much force things as try to get as many easy points for my teammates as possible," he said. "I tried to create plays as opposed to just putting all the scoring on me. We have guys who can score."
Entering this year's Christmas slate, Anthony ranked second all-time in average scoring in Christmas games at 34.3 points, trailing only Tracy McGrady at 43.3.
Woodson said he was not sure how much more time Anthony might miss. The Knicks have a home-and-home series with the first-place Raptors Friday night and Saturday night.
"We'll assess it [today] before practice and see where we are," Woodson said.
Anthony watched from the bench but was not available to reporters afterward. He had expressed cautious optimism about playing, saying after initially suffering the injury, "It's Christmas in the Garden. I don't want to miss that game."
Center Tyson Chandler said he did not think Anthony would play but also said he does not believe the injury will lead to a long absence.
The Knicks had better hope not.
Notes & quotes: With Raymond Felton (groin) out, the point guard situation remained unsettled. Beno Udrih started and shot 1-for-6 for two points in 30 minutes. Woodson tried J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert at the point. "That was so-so," he said . . . Chris Smith made his debut, playing the final 1:21 . . . The Knicks, who have played more games on Christmas than any team in the NBA, fell to 22-27 on the holiday.