NEW YORK — For most of their disappointing season, the New York Knicks relied on forward Carmelo Anthony to do the bulk of their scoring, especially in crunch time.
On Sunday, though, Anthony was an observer and not a scorer in the fourth quarter, nursing his sore shoulder from the bench as the Knicks ended the Chicago Bulls’ seven-game winning streak with a 100-89 victory at Madison Square Garden.
The Bulls (47-33) wasted an opportunity to move ahead of Toronto for the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Raptors (47-33) lost to the Detroit Pistons earlier Sunday.
The Knicks (35-45) were eliminated from playoff contention Saturday when the Atlanta Hawks clinched the Eastern Conference’s final postseason berth with a win over the Miami Heat. This is the first time in Anthony’s 10-year career he won’t appear in the playoffs.
Anthony, the league’s second-highest scorer this season, will be a free agent in the summer.
“A lot of thoughts are going through my mind,” Anthony said. “There is so much going on right now. I have never been in this situation before. Not knowing what or how to feel.
“It is going to going to take some time to decompress.”
New York held onto its lead in the fourth quarter with its rookie guard Tim Hardaway Jr. doing the heavy lifting. Hardaway scored 12 of his game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, including the final five points of the game.
It was the fourth time this season Hardaway, the Knicks’ top draft pick last year, led the team in scoring. It also marked the ninth time this season he scored at least 20 points. He ranks fourth among rookies in scoring, averaging 9.9 points.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Hardaway said, “especially when you have a lot of veterans and all-stars on your team like I do. I think I’m very fortunate, more so than any other rookies that came in this year.”
Anthony and Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith chipped in with 17 points each.
Chicago center Joakim Noah narrowly missed recording his fifth triple-double of the season, finishing with 13 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists. Guard Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 17 points, and forwards Mike Dunleavy and Taj Gibson added 13 points apiece.
“It is disappointing,” Noah said. “A team that is playing for nothing (New York) and we are playing for something big. We didn’t have the right mindset. We fought hard and had a chance at the end, but we didn’t play as hard as we are supposed to in a game that is important.”
The Bulls got as close as 95-88 with 2:10 to play, but Hardaway’s two free throws with 49.6 seconds left, and he added a 3-pointer to push the Knicks’ lead to 100-88.
Forward Carlos Boozer’s jumper pulled the Bulls within 71-61 with 1:56 left in the third quarter, but the Knicks outscored Chicago 6-3 to grab a 77-64 edge going into the fourth quarter.
New York ended the second quarter on a 9-0 run to move into a 45-39 lead. Anthony played sparingly in the quarter, but the Knicks received a boost from Hardaway, who contributed six points in the quarter. He was the first man off coach Mike Woodson’s bench.
Chicago showed good ball movement in the first quarter. The Bulls assisted on seven of their eight baskets and led 22-19. Boozer and Dunleavy dropped in six points apiece.
The Knicks, who captured the Atlantic Division last season, were plagued by injuries and suspensions this season. Newly acquired center Andrea Bargnani missed 37 games with a torn ligament in his elbow, center Tyson Chandler missed 20 games with a fractured right fibula, forward Kenyon Martin’s sore left ankle forced him to miss 35 games, and Smith was suspended the first five games of the season for violating the league’s drug policy.
“There are a lot of what-ifs,” Woodson said. “Those are things, as coaches, you can’t control. But I am proud of our team and the effort they put in here the last month and a half to get back in the race.
“Unfortunately, we fell a little short.”
NOTES: New York C Tyson Chandler grabbed 12 rebounds, the 31st time he led the team in rebounds this season. … New York improved to 14-1 when holding its opponents to 90 points or fewer. … Knicks reserve C Cole Aldrich played a season-high 18 minutes. He scored six points. … Chicago’s Joakim Noah is on pace to finish the season with 419 assists, which would place him ninth in league history among centers in a single season. Noah’s four triple-doubles this season are tied for the league lead. … Knicks F Carmelo Anthony, who began the night averaging a career-high 8.2 rebounds, pulled down just one board. … During Chicago’s seven-game win streak, the Bulls outscored their opponents by an average of 11.7 points.
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