Carmelo Anthony
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images, AP Images

Carmelo Anthony was feeling the love from New York Knicks fans in his first trip back to Madison Square Garden in over two years.

Danny Small

NEW YORK, NY—It wasn’t a picture-perfect night for Carmelo Anthony, but he felt the love from New York Knicks fans once again. For only the second time since he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Melo took the floor at Madison Square Garden, this time as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.

“The love was definitely felt tonight,” Anthony told reporters after the game. “From the fans that were here, just from the city as a whole. Just being back, I think that feeling is kind of hard to explain, but for me to get that kind of ovation. I think I’ve always gotten the love from the city like that, but that love felt extremely good tonight.”

The love began during pregame introductions and it didn’t stop there. For the entire first half, the crowd buzzed whenever Anthony touched the ball. His first bucket came in vintage Melo fashion—a post-up into a fadeaway on the right side of the floor.

To his credit, Melo was about the only Blazer who showed up to play on Wednesday. His 26 points stand as his season-high and he accomplished the feat on remarkable efficiency (11-for-15 from the field). But alas, his Blazers fell in embarrassing fashion to the once helpless Knicks.

Melo was on the bench when the Knicks went on a massive run to start the fourth quarter. New York was up six at the end of the third quarter and pushed that lead to 20 with 6:34 left in the game. Perhaps an alternate timeline of events ends with Melo taking over in crunch time and stealing a win on the Garden floor, but it wasn’t meant to be.

“You got to tip your hat off to those guys tonight,” Anthony said of the Knicks. “They played extremely well. The way they shot the ball. The way they were locked in. They deserved to win tonight.”

Mitchell Robinson put together a dominant offensive performance with 22 points on a perfect 11-for-11 from the floor. Oddly enough, Robinson came to the Knicks by way of a second-round pick included in the deal to send Melo to the Thunder.

“I honestly think that he’s getting better, and better and better and I don’t really think he understands how good he is or how good he can be and his ceiling,” Anthony said of Robinson after the game. “The way that he plays is perfect for the way the Knicks play.”

Although Melo tried to keep the focus on the game, it’s impossible to avoid getting lost in the moment. There’s no guarantee that he plays another game in the Garden, a place he called home for so long.

Anthony admitted that he was “envisioning” what his No. 7 jersey would look like hanging in the rafters.

“I don’t know, you’ve got to ask them,” Anthony replied when asked if he thinks the Knicks will ever retire his jersey. “I did glance up at the rafters a little bit today with the national anthem. They say in life you’ve got to envision so I was envisioning seeing that thing hanging up in there.”

Whether or not Melo’s jersey is ever raised to the rafters is subject to serious debate. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer who spent the prime of his career with the Knicks, but with only one playoff series win under his belt, a jersey retirement is far from a sure thing.

What we do know is that there is still plenty of love for Carmelo Anthony in Madison Square Garden.

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