Some want to make a big deal about Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire not playing in the fourth quarter yesterday. Maybe it was, but our thinking is there was no reason for Mike D’Antoni to put his two “best” players back in the game at that point.

The Knicks were down 21 in the fourth. They were being outplayed all night. Stoudemire clearly was out of it from the start. By the way, in the locker room before the game, Stoudemire looked very tired. He had nine points and five boards. There is no reason for a noon game in New York after Daylight Savings. But we digress.

That’s not the reason the Knicks lost. They lost because they don’t defend or play with passion or play to win. The Sixers do and they have no superstars, and really no All-Stars. Andre Iguodala made it this season, but is he really an All-Star?

Anyway, it says here, and we said it during the third quarter of yesterday’s 106-94 loss, that D’Antoni should send a message to his regulars in this game. But our thinking was put in Toney Douglas, Jerome Jordan and Josh Harrellson for Jeremy Lin, Anthony and Stoudemire.

D’Antoni should have ended the third quarter or gone into the fourth with a lineup of Douglas, Iman Shumpert, Steve Novak, Harrellson and Jordan. That would be sending a message to his starters, stars, regulars – many of whom are underachieving right now.

If something like yesterday happens again tonight against Chicago – the Knicks have been down by 15 in seven straight games – D’Antoni should clear his bench.

Let’s be honest, Lin has played poorly lately. People want to blame Anthony for that, but it’s not all on Anthony. Lin shoots too much and he is careless with the basketball.

D’Antoni’s explanation for not playing Stoudemire and Anthony in the fourth was, “These guys were fighting, they had us back, I just didn’t feel like it was fair to them to take them out and try something else. I did that at Dallas, too. You know, if guys are going to fight that hard to bring you back, I’ll give them a chance to finish it up.”

D’Antoni then was asked if it was because of what Stoudemire and Anthony weren’t giving the Knicks.

“Obviously it’s a combination of both,” D’Antoni said. “We were down by 20, so you try something. You try something different. Those are normal rest time for guys and then you look and see what you have. The energy was going pretty good, so that’s why I left it in there.”

If the Knicks are going to turn things around – again – it has to start with Anthony and Stoudemire. They have to do more defensively. They have to be leaders and play with passion.

This isn’t about offense and who’s getting shots. It’s about playing like a team, and seizing the moment.

The Sixers did. The Knicks were sleeping.


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