NEW YORK -- Carmelo Anthony was animated, flexing his muscles after one basket inside before later lifting his arm high in the air and tapping his head after a made 3-pointer.
Except on Wednesday night in Brooklyn, Anthony did these things while standing at the end of the bench -- for the entire fourth quarter. Anthony sat out the fourth as head coach Jeff Hornacek went with a more energetic group comprised mostly of subs who helped the New York Knicks erase a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit to pull out a much-needed 95-90 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
One might think this would be another drama-filled twist in the "As The Melo Turns" soap opera. Amidst all the daily trade rumors and the strained relationship with team president Phil Jackson, here was Anthony sitting in the final quarter of a come-from-behind Knicks win.
But this was just a case of Hornacek riding a hot group and Anthony said he was fine with the decision.
"I didn't think about it," Anthony said after finishing with 15 points. "I was just in the moment, going with the flow. By the time I looked up –- I looked up one time it was like five minutes, 'Ain't no way I'm going back in there.' These guys had it rolling. There wasn't no need for us [starters] to go back in there and break up what they had going on."
For most of this back-to-back set against the Washington Wizards and Nets, the Knicks looked like they left their legs back in Atlanta during that four-overtime marathon loss on Sunday.
They were drilled in Washington the night before arriving to face a struggling Nets team that would have loved nothing more than to beat the Knicks and have a rare night of bragging rights in their patience-testing rebuild.
"I would say we're off-Broadway right now," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson described the state of the Nets in the rivalry with the Knicks. "And we're trying to get on [Broadway]."
The Knicks (22-29) played like the curtains were coming down on them even before halftime. After playing 13 of their previous 21 games on the road, the Knicks played in one of the ugliest halves you'll ever see.
The Nets led the Knicks 45-38 at halftime and just about everyone at Barclays probably had wished they heard the final buzzer at halftime. The Knicks shot 29.8 percent from the field as Anthony missed nine of his first 12 shots.
"Obviously, with how many minutes we've had, this is the third game in four nights and one was a four-overtime game, and traveling to three," Hornacek explained of sitting starters like Anthony, Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee in the fourth. "[Anthony] just looked like he was a little bit tired. Those guys were playing well together, KP (Kristaps Porzingis), Billy (Willy Hernangomez), Brandon [Jennings], Kuz (Mindaugas Kuzminskas). When those guys get in there together, they've had some good stretches before.
"Usually about the six-minute mark, you're going, 'OK, if I let Carmelo sit much longer the stiffness will probably get in.' But then these guys are playing well, let's let them go."
Hornacek went deep into his bench and dusted off Sasha Vujacic, who had played a grand total of 22 minutes in three previous games this month.
Vujacic rewarded the coach by making history. The shooter converted two 4-point plays, marking the first time the Knicks have had two in the same game.
Vujacic had one in the second quarter and then the other in the fourth when the Knicks went on a 16-2 run to turn a 10-point deficit into an 82-78 lead with 5:09 remaining. Vujacic scored six of his 12 points while playing the entire fourth quarter.
Returning from an illness that had him throwing up in Washington, Porzingis took charge and looked like the future franchise player he will be. Playing with an edge with Derrick Rose (ankle) out and Anthony on the bench, Porzingis scored 12 of his 19 points in the fourth.
Porzingis admitted that at least one Net got him fired up.
"I had a lot of adrenaline while I was playing for a lot of reasons," Porzingis said, adding that he might have missed three fourth-quarter free throws because he was at times mad. "My hands were just shaking a little bit. I think that adrenaline helps in those moments."
When asked which Net got him mad, Porzingis just said the Nets were being aggressive and competitive.
One person who wasn't upset was Anthony. If he was, you couldn't tell by his actions on the bench. As the Knicks clawed their way back in this unsightly game, Anthony flexed his muscles like Hulk Hogan after Hernangomez, who gave the Knicks another lift with his 16 points and 16 rebounds, scored inside with 53.7 seconds left.
Then after Porzingis got a 3 to rattle in 20 seconds later, Anthony lifted his arm high in the air and tapped his head like he usually does after draining a 3. He repeatedly clapped during the Knicks huddle as the Nets called timeout.
"We liked that," Anthony said of the subs' play. "Today was a big day for us to get this win. ... We needed every piece of that tonight."
Next up for Anthony and the Knicks are LeBron James and the defending champs on Saturday. The Cavs, along with the Clippers and Celtics, have been one of the teams mentioned most in trade rumors involving Anthony.
It has been a wild three weeks or so for Anthony with all the drama. He certainly didn't envision himself sitting out the fourth of a tight game against the Nets.
But as we have quickly learned, Melo's 2017 roller-coaster ride has been unpredictable and full of twists. And we still have another three weeks to go before the trading deadline.