In the 80th game, after a season of exhaustion and a Sunday contest filled with bruising hits, Carmelo Anthony sat on the bench at the end of the third quarter. A member of the Knicks’ training staff sprayed his left shoulder with a freezing solution to relieve his pain.
And in the opening minutes of the fourth, with the Knicks’ lead seemingly in peril, coach Mike Woodson called for Anthony. But a Jason Kidd steal and Chris Copeland bucket, and a J.R. Smith three-pointer allowed Woodson to wave Anthony back to the bench.
Then again, with the lead whittled, Woodson called for Anthony. But this time Raymond Felton delivered more good news, a layup that allowed Woodson to wave a smiling Anthony back to the bench.
With the lead safe, the Knicks could begin their rest and preparation for the playoffs. Finishing off a 90-80 win over Indiana, they secured the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, which assured them of a first-round matchup with the Boston Celtics. It also provided home-court advantage at least to the conference finals.
Now, after a season in which he has heard the “M-V-P” chants, Anthony finally can rest. When he went back to the bench with a team-high 25 points, he had an ice pack strapped to his shoulder. And he’ll be on ice tonight, already disclosing that he’s not playing in Charlotte.
“They started making a run,” Anthony said. “He called me up, sat me down, called me up, sat me down again. So at that point, it was just, let’s see if we hit a couple more shots. Then I’m going to go ahead and just sit down.
“I’m good now. I always said [Sunday] was a real important game for us to come in and lock down. It was a big game for us, so now guys can get their rest. I can get my rest and come back full speed ready for the playoffs.”
With the lesson of Kobe Bryant’s torn achilles still fresh, fans were screaming for him to get to the safety of the bench and into bubble wrap to be ready for Boston.