Carmelo Anthony warmed up wearing his now-trademark hoodie over his head and was greeted with a thunderous ovation when he was introduced to his new fans Thursday night. He hugged some of his old teammates, including Kristaps Porzingis, and then tried to shoot the Knicks out of the game quickly.
In his Thunder debut, Anthony probably was a little too hyped. After making his first shot - a three-pointer for the game's first points - he missed five straight.
But there was little doubt that Anthony would get his, and little reason to believe the Knicks could keep the Thunder's weapons down long enough to pull off the upset in their regular-season opener. The Knicks hung in the game for most of the first half but were beaten handily, 105-84.
With Porzingis matched up on him for most of the night, Anthony shot 8-for-20 and had 22 points, two blocks and two steals. Porzingis outplayed him with 31 points, 12 rebounds and a block on one of Anthony's layup attempts.
After the game, Anthony and Porzingis hugged and talked privately near midcourt. Anthony was impressed with how Porzingis played in his first game as the Knicks' franchise player. “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.”
On Wednesday, Anthony said he felt he “was stabbed in the back” by former Knicks president Phil Jackson and “pushed out.” Hours before the game, Anthony tweeted a picture of himself in a Thunder uniform with a rap lyric, “You Watched Me Walk Through Hell, Now Watch Me Walk Up Out It.” He said he was looking forward to this game so he could close that chapter on his career.
“That chapter's closed,” said Anthony, whose wife, LaLa, and son were sitting courtside. “That chapter's closed. No more Knicks talk. We can just focus on the Thunder moving forward, what we have to do as a team, as an organization. I can say that that chapter is closed tonight.”
A 31-11 Thunder run between the second and third quarters had the Knicks facing their first 20-point deficit of the season. They committed 26 turnovers that led to 38 Thunder points.
Paul George scored 28 points in his first game with the Thunder. Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, who averaged a triple-double last season, picked up where he left off with 21 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds.
The Knicks got 10 points from starting center Enes Kanter, but no other Knick scored in double figures. Tim Hardaway Jr., who signed a four-year, $71 million contract, was 3-for-10 with eight points. Willy Hernangomez didn't play until garbage time. Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn played ahead of Hernangomez, who said Jeff Hornacek told him he isn't in the rotation right now.
Hornacek used 10 players before calling on rookie Frank Ntilikina, who had a rough NBA debut. He was 0-for-2, air-balled his two shot attempts and had a turnover and an assist in 7:32. “His two shots were right on line,” Hornacek said. “He was a little juiced up and they went long. He's going to be fine.”
Anthony was traded to the Thunder just before the start of training camp for Kanter, Doug McDermott and the Bulls' second-round pick this year. He waived his no-trade clause and 15 percent trade kicker to get out of New York and play for a contender.
Porzingis, the central figure of the Knicks' rebuilding effort, quickly learned what life without Melo is like, facing double-teams throughout the game and throwing the ball away when he was triple-teamed in the first quarter. But he got more comfortable as the game went on.
“I felt good,” he said. “I feel good physically. I feel stronger. I feel more comfortable in the paint. I'll try to stay aggressive and stay in the paint. That's going to bring me easy points. I'll try to do whatever I can offensively to help the team.”
Porzingis helped keep the Knicks close with 19 points before halftime, but the Thunder ended the half on an 11-0 run to go up 53-42 at the break.
The first half ended with the Thunder converting a turnover into a dunk by George at the buzzer. Hornacek was furious that no foul was called when the ball was stolen, and he rushed the court to argue. He was whistled for a technical and could have picked up a second, but two assistants restrained him.
The Thunder opened the second half on a 9-2 run to extend to 62-44. The Knicks answered with eight consecutive points, but the Thunder quickly extended a 10-point lead to 20 as the Knicks went 4:52 without a field goal.
“I thought the guys played hard,” Hornacek said. “They were in the game at the end of the second quarter. We were right there and then let it kind of slip away.”