Even if Carmelo Anthony was healthy enough to dress for today's Christmas matinee against the Oklahoma City Thunder, it was still going to be an uphill battle for the Knickerbockers to come away with the victory. Without their leading scorer and top rebounder, the job became impossible.
For the fourth time this season, the New York Knicks lost a home game by 20 or more points. They had no answer for Kevin Durant and the Thunder as they hammered the Knicks, 123-94, dropping New York to 9-19 on the season. The team is even worse at home as their record at Madison Square Garden is now 4-11. New York lost only 10 games at home all of last season as things continue to get worse before they get better.
"We played a great team tonight," said Coach Mike Woodson. "Being shorthanded, I thought we came out ready to play. But as the game went on, our defense got worse."
Anthony missed his first game of the season because of a left ankle injury, and the result was the Knicks suffering their worst loss ever on Christmas. Without Anthony, Woodson decided to give JR Smith the start in his place. If this was last season, Smith may have delivered the kind of performance that earned him the 6th Man award last season. But this is not last season as Smith's bad season continued. He shot 8-for-22 from the field and finished with 20 points.
"I was trying to get as many points for my teammates as possible," said Smith. " I tried to make plays for my teammates. We couldn't get any easy buckets."
He took many difficult shots during the course of the game and the fans got tired of his play as they started to boo Smith. After the game, Smith said he heard the jeers that were directed at him.
Afterward, he said he heard the boos directed at him and the team throughout the game.
"They’re just fans. When we lose they’re going to boo. When we win they’re going to cheer," he said. "That’s just the way the game goes."
This was the second year in a row that Anthony missed a home game against the Thunder. Last season, Anthony was not in uniform when New York hosted the Thunder. The result was a 95-94 loss that saw Smith score 34 points and the team feeling really good about itself by playing their hearts out against one of the NBA's elite team without it's best player. But things are different now as the Knickerbockers are not even close to being the same team they were last season.
"I knew Melo wasn't going to go. When that happens it has to be a team effort," Knicks Center Tyson Chandler said. " There is no one individual that will be able to pick up the scoring. It has to be a team thing."
Chandler played in his fourth game back since his knee injury. His return to the lineup was supposed to make the team defense stronger but that was not the case at all. The Thunder had their offensively as they shot 54% from the field and 13-24 from three point range. In addition to the boos of Smith, the fans started a small "Fire Woodson" chant as the Knicks were suffereing another embarassing home loss.
"I mean, I'm disappointed with them. Honestly, my disappointment probably outweighs theirs," Chandler said. "It is what it is. They come out here to see a show and they come here to see their team play hard and I understand it."
The only positive of the day was the play of Amar'e Stoudemire. After scoring a combined 25 points in his previous five games, Stoudemire played a efficient game scoring 22 points on 10-16 shooting. It was the first time all season that a Knick other than Anthony led the team in scoring.
Tim Hardaway Jr. set a new career high in points with 21 as he continues his strong play. Iman Shumpert played one of his better games in quite some time. Shumpert played with high energy as he finished with eight points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.
The Knicks got off to a nice start against as the game was tied at 18 midway through the first quarter. The team had some great spirit early on and looked as if they were going to play their heart out and make it a game. But then Oklahoma City went on a 12-4 run to take a eight-point lead. It was in the second quarter, though, when the Thunder was able to increase its lead, taking a 14-point advantage into halftime as the Knicks were outscored 25-17 on 3-13 shooting in the quarter.
"We made shots that kept us in the game," said Woodson. " I thought we played in spurts but it was not good enough and that is why it was so lopsided. When you are not making shots and not defending, it's a bad combination.
New York finished the game shooting 42% from the field and were even worse from beyond the arc. The 3-point shooting that was such a weapon for this team last season, continues to struggle as they shot 6-23 on the day.