Carmelo Anthony was back on the floor. Phil Jackson was back in his regular seat. Yet neither addition was enough to push the Knicks into the win column as they lost to the Miami Heat, 86-79, Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
After missing the previous two games with back spasms, Anthony scored 31 points in 41:14 and shot 11-for-26.
Jackson, the team president and advocate of the triangle offense, couldn't have been thrilled with what he saw in his first game at the Garden since he watched his team beat the Bucks two weeks ago.
The Knicks trailed the entire game but managed to make it a two-point game with 1:25 left when Amar'e Stoudemire tipped in Shane Larkin's miss.
After Chris Bosh hit a three-pointer with 28 seconds remaining, the Knicks' hopes completely faded when Anthony threw a long, hard pass to Tim Hardaway Jr., who dropped the ball and watched it slip out of bounds with 22 seconds left.
The loss was the Knicks' fourth straight and 13th in the last 15 games, dropping their record to 4-14.
Stoudemire finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
The Heat (9-7) was led by Dwyane Wade's 27 points, five rebounds and five assists. Bosh contributed 20 points and nine rebounds and Luol Deng had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Anthony originally was listed as doubtful for the game. His back pain had been so severe that he said he was unable to talk to his teammates last Monday.
After going through the team's shootaround Sunday morning, however, he decided to play.
The Knicks have struggled all season, but they looked particularly lost at times in their two games without Anthony.
The first game was an overtime loss to Dallas and former Knicks teammate Tyson Chandler. The second was their lowest-scoring game and most lopsided defeat of the season, a 105-78 loss at Oklahoma City on Friday.
After the Oklahoma City game, a frustrated Stoudemire called out his teammates, saying there had been a lack of effort and desire in the game.
Before Sunday night's game, coach Derek Fisher said he understood Stoudemire's frustration and thought it might be a good thing for players to speak out.
"We've had some closer games we couldn't squeeze out and get wins that we'd like to have back, and I think in OKC, we all felt like we got overrun and we couldn't do much about it at the time," Fisher said. "I understand why guys would be frustrated and feeling that way."
There definitely was enough frustration to go around after Sunday night.
J.R. Smith, who totaled only 17 points in two starts with Anthony out, played only six minutes Sunday night and went scoreless, going 0-for-4. Smith looked less than happy after being pulled from the game in the second quarter. He never returned and spent a good chunk of the game with a towel over his head.
The game marked the return of Wade, who had been sidelined for seven games (four of them losses) with a strained hamstring.