A video played on the overhead scoreboard as part of a huge welcome from the fans and franchise, followed by a fast start that gave Anthony hope he could have everything he wanted.
Then things fell flat until the finish.
The Knicks shut out their former All-Star in the second half and beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-96 on Saturday night for their fourth straight victory.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling for me, coming back here knowing the goal that I had and what I wanted to accomplish here and falling short in that category,” Anthony said.
Michael Beasley tied his season high with 30 points in place of injured Kristaps Porzingis, and Doug McDermott, acquired with Enes Kanter for Anthony, added 11 of his 13 after halftime to help the Knicks break open the game.
“This game was kind (of) about him and I thought we did a really good job of not letting that distract us and just focus on winning the game,” McDermott said. “And it felt great, especially being a part of the trade (with) Enes.
Anthony scored 12 points in the first half but was 0 for 5 after, perhaps low on energy after the Thunder’s three-overtime victory at Philadelphia a night earlier.
He made a 3-pointer for the Thunder’s first basket of the game after refocusing following a video tribute that caught him off guard, but finished 5 of 18 from the field as the Knicks played with passion and precision they lacked in Anthony’s final years in New York.
“You got to beat the best to be the best,” Beasley said. “He’s one of the best of our era.”
Russell Westbrook had 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Thunder, who were trying to sweep a three-game trip that began with Paul George’s winning return to Indiana on Wednesday.
But they couldn’t deliver a victory for Anthony back at Madison Square Garden, even with the Knicks playing without leading scorer Porzingis because of a knee injury.
“I think the guys just, they were ready for tonight’s game,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “And we caught them after a triple-overtime game so that probably helped us too, but our guys played hard all night which probably wore them down.”
Anthony received a pair of loud cheers during pregame introductions, before and at the end of a video tribute showing his highlights on the court and his charitable efforts off it that was played after the first four Thunder starters were announced. But the boos became more noticeable once play got underway, and soon they were coming every time he touched the ball.
“That was expected,” Anthony said. “They can’t cheer for me, I’m on another team.”
Later, the cheers were all for the Knicks, who after trading their leading scorer on the eve of training camp are a surprising 16-13 — better than Anthony’s new team (14-15). Anthony was booed one last time as he was removed with 1.4 seconds remaining.
Beasley had a hand in 12 of the Knicks’ final 15 points of the third quarter, scoring nine himself and assisting on Ron Baker’s 3-pointer. That turned a two-point lead into an 80-73 advantage over the final 3 ½ minutes of the period.
The Knicks pushed it into double digits in the fourth behind five straight points from McDermott — originally it was six by a 3-pointer was changed to a 2 after review — and he later made it 100-87 with a 3-pointer with 6:02 remaining.
The Thunder played without starting center Steven Adams because of a concussion.
Thunder: George finished with 18 points. … The Thunder were trying to move above .500 for the first time since they were 4-3 after a victory in Milwaukee on Halloween. … Oklahoma City beat New York 105-84 at home in the season opener for both teams.
Knicks: The Knicks won for the first time in five games this season without Porzingis, who worked out before the game with team doctors before he was ruled out. The Knicks said Friday his status was day to day. … Courtney Lee scored 20 points.
Anthony said he was unaware there would be a video tribute and thanked the Knicks for it. But he wanted the game, too.
“We wanted this one,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and lie to you.”
The Knicks snapped a four-game losing streak against the Thunder. The Thunder lead the series 13-6 since moving to Oklahoma City.
Thunder: Host Denver on Monday night.
Knicks: At Charlotte on Monday night.
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