NEW YORK (AP) — In nearly 800 NBA regular-games, Carmelo Anthony had never played in one like this.
It didn't matter.
Eliminated from postseason contention for the first time in his 11-year career, Anthony said it was tough even coming to the arena on Sunday night.
"But mentally, you just had to put yourself in that mindset. Although you're not playing for nothing, if you suit up, you've still got to go out there and play ball," Anthony said.
He and the Knicks did it well, getting 20 points from Tim Hardaway Jr. and beating the Chicago Bulls 100-89.
No longer with any hopes of their own, the Knicks snapped the Bulls' seven-game winning streak and dropped them back into a tie with Toronto for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference with two to play.
"We let a big game slip tonight. It was probably the biggest game of the season," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "Disappointing the way our mentality wasn't good today, but overall we just won't have time, just got to let this one go, get ready tomorrow."
Anthony and J.R. Smith each had 17 points for the Knicks, who were eliminated Saturday when Atlanta beat Miami, ending New York's run of three straight postseason berths.
Anthony's first season without a postseason comes as he prepares to become a free agent in July. He had a hard time looking ahead beyond the next two games — which he isn't even sure he will play in because of nagging shoulder pain that he might get checked.
"It's just hard for me to even think past tonight, right now, at this moment," Anthony said. "Everything is just, for me, just cloudy. I've never been in this situation before. I don't even know what to say about this situation."
A 54-division champion last season, they believed they were built to play deep into the spring, so confident in what they had that Amare Stoudemire said the expectations should have been even higher.
"On paper, we might be the best team in the league," he said before the game. "We've got great players on this team who've accomplished so much. We just couldn't put it together."
Noah had 13 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists for the Bulls. Jimmy Butler scored 17 points, but Chicago was just 6 of 22 (27 percent) from 3-point range.