NEW ORLEANS — Carmelo Anthony experienced a serious case of mixed emotions Sunday evening. Not long after Syracuse reached the Final Four, the Knicks were eliminated from playoff contention for the third consecutive year.
“To go from my team being in the Final Four to go back to being eliminated, it kind of messed the emotions up for a minute,” Anthony said. “It’s nothing we can do about it at this point but to go out and keep winning basketball games, close out strong.”
The Knicks did none of those things Monday night in a second half that underscored why they won’t be in the playoffs. They blew a 10-point third-quarter lead, scored 37 second-half points and fell to the heavily undermanned Pelicans, 99-91, at Smoothie King Center.
The third quarter ended with the Knicks missing 17 of their last 18 shots and scoring 10 points total. Leading 85-84 with 3:05 left, the Knicks (30-45) were outscored 15-6 to end the game against the Pelicans (27-46), who were missing Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans.
Interim coach Kurt Rambis said the Knicks were “soft” offensively, and Anthony was bothered by the result, all things considered.
“We should have won this game,” he said. “There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it, this was a game we should have won. A team who has five of their starters out, most of the guys on their team, no disrespect to them, they play a limited role, they play limited minutes. So for them to come out and beat us, this was a game we should have won.”
Anthony led the Knicks with 22 points and Robin Lopez added 17. Kristaps Porzingis had 16 points and 10 rebounds for his third double-double in four games.
Jrue Holiday had 22 points and six assists and former Knick Toney Douglas added 16 points for the Pelicans.
Since starting 22-22 and sitting a half-game out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference on Jan. 20, the Knicks have gone 8-23.
Anthony, who led Syracuse to the 2003 NCAA championship next door at the Superdome, made the playoffs his first 10 seasons in the league — seven with the Nuggets and three with the Knicks.
Earlier this season, when the Knicks’ slide started, he was asked if he could imagine missing the postseason three straight years and said he didn’t want to think about it.
“I have to think about it now,” Anthony said. “Has it set in? It hasn’t set in yet. Maybe when the last ball drops on that last game, the last whistle is blown, that’s when it’ll sink in that another postseason is missed.”
Anthony, who plans to play in the Summer Olympics in Rio and go for his third gold medal, sounds as if he plans to play in the Knicks’ remaining seven games. He was slowed earlier this season by soreness in his surgically repaired left knee, but a migraine was the only thing that kept him out of a game the past seven weeks.
“My body feels good,” he said. “I haven’t even thought about sitting out and resting.
“What is taking off two games going to do for me? What is taking off three days going to do for me if I got the whole offseason to get better?”