Knicks no match for Carmelo, Thunder in opening-night dud
Kristaps Porzingis bested Carmelo Anthony in their individual matchup, but that was the only thing that went right for the Knicks.
Anthony didn’t have a very good performance in the first game of his new life, but he had a very good cast, led by Russell Westbrook’s triple-double (21 points, 16 assists, 10 rebounds).
Porzingis outplayed his mentor, scoring 31 points and grabbing 12 rebounds and looked more than ready for his new role as Knicks leading man.
But Porzingis’ ascendance meant zilch. The 7-foot-3 Latvian had zero help as Anthony’s Thunder, after a slow start, rolled to a 105-84 romp over the Knicks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Thursday’s season opener.
Anthony, after opening 2-of-11 from the field, racked up 22 points in his Oklahoma City debut and got the win he cherished to close his New York chapter.
“No more talking about the Knicks,” Anthony cracked.
Anthony shot just 8-of-20 (3-of-10 from beyond the 3-point arc) and posted one assist, one rebound and four fouls in 34 minutes. As his mentor, he could feel proud about Porzingis’ night — even at his expense.
“I was happy for him, just to see that he’s ready to take on that role,” Anthony said. “He looked aggressive tonight, looked comfortable, felt comfortable. So I was happy to see that.”
At the buzzer, Anthony and Porzingis hugged at midcourt, and the former Knicks stud whispered in his friend’s ear.
“A secret,’’ Porzingis said. “It was fun. I tried to enjoy playing against him, especially the first time. We went at it at practices. It was a lot of fun. Trying to stop him as a much as I could. It was a good experience.”
Anthony hit a 3-pointer on OKC’s first possession, but proceeded to miss his next six shots, including being blocked from behind by Porzingis on a drive.
“I was happy to get that first block on him,” Porzingis said.
Before the game, Anthony tweeted his Knicks experience was “hell” and said he’s ready to rise from it in OKC.
“It’s how I felt, the last couple of months, the last year, the last two years,” Anthony said. “I felt it was a lot. So I felt like this was the opportunity for people who watched me go through that to watch the other side of that.”
Without Anthony, the rebuilding Knicks could be staring at their own “hell” this season.
To begin his second Knicks stint, Tim Hardaway Jr. laid an egg (eight points, 3-of-10 shooting), and the Knicks didn’t receive any competent point-guard play while Westbrook tore through them.
Their new pickups in the Anthony trade — Enes Kanter (10 points, seven rebounds) and Doug McDermott — hardly stepped up. McDermott was particularly ineffective in a four-point outing, and rookie Frank Ntilikina was ineffective in seven minutes of action during which he shot two airballs and committed a bad turnover — one of 25 for the club.
“We have to be tougher with the ball,” Hornacek said.
Hornacek, who nearly got thrown out after racing onto the court at the end of the half to argue Paul George’s strip of Hardaway, still had his silver linings in the 22-year-old Porzingis and the poor shooting nights of Anthony/George (28 points, 9-of-23).
“When you hold George and Carmelo to 17-of-43, you’re doing a good job,’’ Hornacek said.
If this rebuilding season is to be a success, Porzingis will have to look like he did Thursday.
“I saw energy,’’ Hornacek said. “He was great moving. He played 38 minutes. Maybe last year that would’ve been a struggle. Maybe he’d get tired and commit silly fouls. He had a great game and we expect a lot more from him.”
Injuries hit the Knicks fast as Michael Beasley was lost for the game late in the first quarter after playing just 36 seconds. He hit a jumper and landed awkwardly, partly on Westbook’s foot. He didn’t return after limping badly to the locker room with a sprained ankle.
Beasley called it “a freak accident’’ and left the locker room in a walking boot. He’ll miss the home opener Saturday versus Detroit but said he hopes to be back within a week.
Before tipoff, Anthony hugged Hardaway Jr. and Porzingis. During warm-ups before the second half, Anthony, in his OKC hoodie, came over to hug Hornacek, despite their chilly relationship. His chapter is closed, but nobody knows what’s next for the Knicks.