CHICAGO - Carmelo Anthony and Bulls guard Derrick Rose already had been declared out of the nationally televised game when TNT's Charles Barkley offered his first analysis of the night.
"My God,'' Barkley said outside the Knicks' locker room, "it's going to be awful.''
The game lacked star power, but it was more competitive than anyone could have guessed. The heavily undermanned Knicks were down one with less than a minute remaining, but couldn't get a key defensive rebound and fell, 103-97, Thursday night at the United Center.
The Knicks (5-23) now have the most losses in the league.
Anthony has soreness in his troublesome left knee and said he's being told by "multiple people'' that he should just sit for a while and rest it. But Anthony has said he wants to try to play through the pain and help the team.
The Knicks also were without J.R. Smith (partial tear of his left plantar fascia), Iman Shumpert (dislocated shoulder) and Andrea Bargnani (strained calf). An illness sidelined Rose and Taj Gibson has an ankle injury.
The Knicks' starting lineup was Jose Calderon, Tim Hardaway Jr., Travis Wear, Amar'e Stoudemire and Cole Aldrich. Stoudemire was supposed to have "a recovery day'' but said he told Derek Fisher, "There's no way I can sit this one out.''
Hardaway had 23 points. Stoudemire added 16 and Aldrich had 13 with 10 rebounds. Jimmy Butler scored a career-high 35 for Chicago (16-9). Pau Gasol had 20 and Aaron Brooks 18.
The Knicks cut a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to one on Stoudemire's jump shot with 1:01 remaining. On the ensuing trip, Gasol scored inside to make it a three-point game.
After a timeout, Hardaway air-balled a three-pointer with 37.9 seconds left. On the Bulls' next possession, they came up with two offensive rebounds, one off of a missed foul shot. Gasol hit two from the line for the final points with 10.3 seconds left.
Neither the Knicks nor Anthony has ever said what is bothering him, and there has been talk that he needs surgery. Anthony, who missed a game last week because of his knee, said he aggravated it Tuesday night in the loss to Dallas.
"I've had multiple people say kind of just shut it down or just take time off,'' Anthony said. "At the end of the day, it's hard for me to just do that right now amidst what's happening with the team. So I'm just trying to be smart about it.''
Anthony was asked what it will take for him to shut it down.
"I don't know, man,'' he said. "I take some days off, some days it feels like I can go. Some days it feels like I have everything. The other day it was sore in the first half. I didn't have no lift on my shot. In the second half my lift came back a little bit. It's going to be off and on like that.''
Anthony tested his knee at shootaround, and by sitting out, he will have three days off. He said the Knicks "shut me down'' Wednesday and wouldn't let him take part in practice.
The Knicks have a back-to-back Saturday and Sunday, then three off days before they play the Wizards on Christmas Day.
"I'm just trying to see over the next couple of days how it reacts, things like that,'' Anthony said. "It gets frustrating not knowing what's going to happen. So for me you're taking it as the days come.''
The Knicks trailed by 11 three times in the second quarter but brought a 74-73 lead into the fourth quarter.