Knicks learn life's tough without Melo

Knicks leading scorer Carmelo Anthony sat out of Saturday's loss to the Bulls with a lacerated finger. Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO -- Carmelo Anthony hopes he's healthy enough to get back on the floor Sunday night.

You can bet the Knicks feel the same way.

With Anthony sitting out again due to a laceration in his left middle finger, the Knicks suffered through one of their worst offensive performances of the season on Saturday night.

Tom Thibodeau's Bulls held New York to a season-low 32 percent shooting from the floor to win an ugly, grind-it-out affair at the United Center.

It was the kind of game where one of the best scorer's in the NBA -- a guy named Carmelo Anthony -- would have made a big difference.

"We definitely missed him tonight," Tyson Chandler said of Anthony.

With Anthony on the bench Saturday, the Knicks needed scoring from Raymond Felton, Steve Novak or J.R. Smith.

And they didn't get it.

Felton, playing with a bone bruise in his left hand, had a game-high 27 points but needed a career-high 30 shots to get there.

"He missed some shots that he normally makes," Mike Woodson said.

With Anthony out for the second straight game, the Knicks lacked a legitimate post threat, someone who could have drawn the attention of Bulls defenders and opened up looks on the perimeter.

In Miami, Rasheed Wallace filled that role. Thanks in part to Wallace and the pick and role between Chandler and Felton, the Knicks plenty of open opportunities against the Heat.

That wasn't the case on Saturday.

Chicago's perimeter defense -- the best in the NBA -- suffocated the Knicks all night.

The Bulls took Steve Novak out of the game (he shot 1-for-3 from 3-point range) and limited the Knicks to just eight makes on 23 attempts.

"There are going to be nights when Novak isn't going to get the looks because teams lock in," Woodson said. "Other guys need to step up and make shots."

With Novak and Smith (4-for-14) making little impact on offense, the onus was on Felton to provide points.

Felton got to the basket on Saturday, but couldn't finish his shot.

He missed eight of his 11 attempts in the paint.

"They took my three away off the screen and roll and made sure I went off the screen and had to attack the big," Felton said.

It was a departure from the Felton the Knicks had seen in the past three games, the guy who'd averaged 22.3 points and hit 11 of 24 threes.

If Anthony were healthy, Felton said he could have gone to him in the post and in isolation instead of running constant screen and rolls. The Bulls stayed home on the Knicks' shooters on the screen and roll and forced Felton to attach the rim.

"So I had to try to make shots tonight and in the second half, they really weren't falling for me," Felton said.

The Knicks made just seven of 23 shots in the decisive fourth quarter and it was clear they missed Anthony down the stretch.

"He's one of the top five scorers in the world," Novak said. "So he definitely would have made a difference."

In all, the Knicks have to be happy with a 2-1 road trip. They won in Charlotte on Smith's buzzer beater.

They then showed that they can beat an elite team without Anthony -- which is a sign of the depth of the roster.

But they learned on Saturday that life can also be tough without your best scorer.

"Melo's a big part of what we do," Woodson said late Saturday night. "He's leading scorer, but we had enough to win tonight."

The Knicks return to the Garden on Sunday, where they are off to a 7-0 start. And they're 14-5 overall. So there's no need to get too worked up over Saturday's loss if you're a Knicks fan.

Especially if Anthony's in uniform on Sunday night.

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