The Knicks continued their downward slide with a troubling and injury-riddled 117-94 loss to the Nuggets.
Carmelo Anthony’s delayed homecoming was a nightmare on all levels, as the banged-up MVP candidate couldn’t even finish the game — and when he was in the game, he was a non-factor, netting just nine points in 21 minutes of action.
Last year’s lockout eliminated the Knicks’ lone visit, so the Pepsi Center crowd had plenty of time to build vitriol to their former star of seven seasons. Alas, Anthony didn’t give the home crowd enough time to jeer him, as he left the game early in the third quarter with soreness in his already ailing right knee.
The home crowd had plenty to cheer about with their relentless Nuggets (44-22) squad, though, as Denver had four of their five starters reach double digits scoring, and two more players do the same off the bench. The Nuggets also hammered the Knicks (38-24) on the boards, 53-33, including an 18-7 advantage on the offensive glass, while forcing the usually prudent Knicks into 19 turnovers. New York came into the game with a league-low 11 turnovers per game.
The Knicks (38-24) were led by Iman Shumpert’s season-high 20 points. But as impressive as his breakout game was, he could’ve doubled that effort and the Knicks would’ve still struggled to earn the victory.
What we learned ...
1. Injuries crippling Knicks
The Knicks haven’t had their own version of the “Big 3” on the floor together for most of the season, but at least the trio can now carve out space on the injured list together. Amar’e Stoudemire is already on the injured list for at least the remainder of the regular season, but Wednesday night he was joined by Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony. The former suffered a left knee contusion when he collided with Corey Brewer with 1:28 remaining in the first half and never returned. The latter exited with 9:45 remaining in the third quarter and was done for the night with soreness in his ailing right knee and the Knicks already down 70-44.
2. No hustle or energy
The Knicks might’ve done better to not even get off the team bus at the arena, judging by the way they were severely beaten in all facets of the game. Denver hammered New York on the glass, 53-33, including an 18-7 advantage on the offensive glass — and that was even with the 7-foot-1 Chandler still in the lineup. Despite having the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the lineup, the Nuggets lived in the paint. But that’s what happens when a team like the Knicks only has one true interior defender. Unfortunately for New York, the Chandler-Brewer collision was about the only contact any Knicks player had with any Nuggets player in the paint, as there was a layup line for the home team practically all night. The microcosm of Wednesday night’s effort was the aggressive play of the Nuggets, which was evident in their 37-22 advantage on free-throw attempts.
3. Two better than one
Count the Nuggets as the winner so far in the Anthony trade, overall and Wednesday night. Denver improved to 100-57 since the February 2011 trade, while New York fell to 88-68. Making matters worse is the fact that two of the more important principles that were traded for Anthony, forwards Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, excelled while Anthony couldn’t even finish the contest. Gallinari finished with 16 points and three steals, while Chandler added a game-high 24 points off the bench. Anthony could only muster nine points on 3-of-12 shooting in 21 minutes of action before his night ended early.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.