Tyson Chandler was back at Madison Square Garden, bouncing around and playing with the kind of contagious energy his former team has missed. The Knicks didn't have that same passion or urgency, prompting Derek Fisher to pull all of his starters at the same time 6:40 into the game.
Fisher sent his team a message that what it was doing wasn't good enough. After the Knicks' 107-87 loss to the Mavericks last night, Fisher was still upset, and for the first time publicly criticized his team.
"I thought the start was not the right way to start a professional basketball game,'' Fisher said. "Those guys that were in there to start the game, that was a disappointment to their teammates more than anything. Guys that start the game have to mentally and physically be ready to play and they couldn't put that out there.''
It is surprising that it has taken Fisher this long to express frustration, considering the Knicks' awful start this season and lackadaisical effort at times.
This was one of their worst performances in a season that's been filled with plenty of bad nights.
"They came ready to play,'' Carmelo Anthony said. "We didn't.''
The Knicks (5-22) trailed by 19 in the first quarter, by 25 in the fourth, and let the Mavericks (18-8) shoot 15-for-33 from three-point range. The Knicks were booed roundly several times, including after the final buzzer sounded.
It was their 21st loss in 24 games, and their 22 defeats tie the 76ers for the most in the league.
"It don't sit well,'' Anthony said. "If I sat here and said it sits well with me, then you should question me. But it don't sit well with me. Losing the way we're losing doesn't sit well. I don't like this feeling. What are we going to do about it right now? We got a lot more games to play.''
The way the game started was a bad omen for the Knicks, who won the tap and had a 24-second violation. The Mavericks opened shooting 8-for-9. Later in the game, the Knicks had another 24-second turnover coming out of a timeout.
The closest the Knicks got was four early in the second quarter. But they were down 10 at the half and trailed by double digits the last 15:29 of the game. Fisher pulled Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire for good after a 16-4 run gave Dallas a 99-77 lead in the fourth.
"Just overall not being able to sustain high effort, high energy, elite-level excellent performance, that's really the issue for us as we're developing,'' Fisher said. "We can't sustain long periods of playing at a high level.''
Anthony led the Knicks with 26 points. Tim Hardaway Jr. added 14, but was 5-for-17 from the field and missed all eight of his three-point tries. He's 1-for-16 from three in the last two games.
Dirk Nowitzki led five Mavericks in double figures with 16 points. Chandler, who was traded to the Mavericks in June, received a warm ovation from the Garden crowd when he was introduced before the game, and then had a typical performance.
Chandler finished with eight points -- all four baskets came on dunks -- and 14 rebounds. Chandler said he felt badly for Anthony and is surprised where the Knicks are.
"I knew it would be a tough year because of change,'' he said. "I didn't know it would be this tough to be quite honest.''
Fisher subbed the five starters with the score 26-11, but the reserves were at the scorer's table long before then, just waiting for a whistle. Chandler had three lob dunks at that point.
"I think it was a great substitution,'' said Stoudemire, the starting center. "When guys are not playing hard enough, then we should go with another lineup to wake things up a little bit.''
Fisher hoped it didn't have to come to that.