Carmelo Anthony sat silently at his locker, wondering if it was time to rest his aching body, or even shoot less.
Wishing he was still in Denver never crossed his mind.
"Expectations are still high. Things will still be great," he said. "I'm not down, I'm not regretting anything. I'm not regretting the trade."
And certainly neither are the Nuggets.
Danilo Gallinari outplayed Anthony in the first meeting since they were swapped in a blockbuster trade, scoring a career-high 37 points as the Nuggets outlasted the New York Knicks 119-114 in double-overtime on Saturday night.
"It's special not just for me but I think for everybody," said Gallinari, who was loudly cheered. "Whenever you come to the Garden to play, you always find extra motivation and it's always special."
Al Harrington, another former Knicks forward, scored 22 of his 24 points after halftime for the Nuggets, allowing them to withstand Anthony's attempt to rally the Knicks after his poor shooting had them behind until the final minutes of regulation.
Anthony finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, missing 20 of 30 shots in the Knicks' sixth straight loss. He missed 14 of his first 17 shots and heard boos, then made his final four of regulation to nearly help New York pull it out.
"I hope it works out for him," Harrington said. "I love him like he's a brother of mine. You know I'd hate to see anybody, especially in New York, you can suffer if you don't win. I hope they turn it around."
Anthony, who spent the first 7 1/2 years of his career with the Nuggets before they granted him a trade, was on his way to a nightmare first game against them. He threw away a pass that Gallinari turned into the tiebreaking layup with 5:19 left in regulation, committed an offensive foul on his next possession that Nene followed with a dunk for a four-point lead, and Denver was up six with under 2 1/2 minutes remaining.
But Anthony finally got going with some drives to the basket, and after Gallinari managed only one free throw with 7.3 seconds left, Anthony made a jumper with three defenders around him to tie it at 98 with 1.7 seconds to go.
His 3-pointer with 2:33 left in the first OT snapped a 100-all tie, and after Andre Miller tied it with a desperation 3 to beat the shot clock, Anthony knocked in a jumper to put New York back ahead with 1:02 remaining. It stayed that way until Nene was fouled grabbing the rebound of Anthony's missed jumper with 9.2 seconds left, making both free throws to tie it again.
Anthony lost the ball out of bounds with 0.3 seconds left, and the Knicks dodged a bullet when Miller's lob pass to an unguarded Corey Brewer hit the rim and bounced away, setting up another OT.
The Knicks led for the final time at 111-110 on Anthony's jumper with 1:38 to play, but Gallinari made two free throws and Harrington hit a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 115-111 with 46 seconds to go.
Nene had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Nuggets, who played without starting guard Arron Afflalo because of a groin injury. Miller started for him and had 14 points and 12 assists as Denver won its fourth straight and improved to 7-0 against the Eastern Conference.
Anthony has been bothered by a sore left wrist for more than week, perhaps contributing to his awful shooting in that stretch. He was frustrated enough to get ejected from Friday's loss to Milwaukee, and he was booed in the second half of this one as jumpers kept clanging off the rim. He's just 41 for 116 (35 percent) in his last five games and said afterward he might need to pass up some shots, or even talk to the team doctors and decide if he needs to rest.
"When you're missing shots and they're right there and they're not going in, you say 'Maybe the next one, maybe the next one.' That's kind of the mentality that you have," he said. "But maybe I need to stop shooting a lot, I don't know. It's just a bunch of stuff that goes through my mind right now."
Besides Gallinari, the Knicks' lottery pick in 2008, the Nuggets also got Timofey Mozgov, Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler, who all were among the Knicks' top six players. That's a lot to give up even for a potent scorer like Anthony — too much, many Knicks fans thought, and there were reports former team president Donnie Walsh did, too, but he was overruled by Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan.
The lack of depth has been crippling this season, where the Knicks have no reliable scorer beyond Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. The Nuggets, meanwhile, thrive because of their balance, with a number of players capable of leading them in scoring.
And though Denver general manager Masai Ujiri said after the deal that the Nuggets "got killed," they've been much better since the deal. Denver is 30-12 in the regular season since the trade, while New York fell to just 20-24.
Anthony chatted with coach George Karl for about five minutes before the game in the Denver locker room. One of the topics of their talk: the fact they hadn't talked since the trade.
"I told him my philosophy is usually sometimes it's best to wait about six, seven, eight months and next time we see each other we should go to dinner," Karl said. "And I think we will."
Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert each scored 18 points for the Knicks, but Stoudemire took just nine shots and finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
"We had a chance to win, it's all about winning with me," Stoudemire said. "It's not about numbers, it's not about shots. It's just about winning. So we had a chance to win, we had momentum going, just couldn't pull it out."
New York led by 12 in the first half but gave it all away with a poor third quarter, which ended tied at 72. The Knicks lost rookie reserve Josh Harrellson to a fractured right wrist. He will need surgery and is expected to miss six weeks after that.
Notes: The Knicks don't play in Denver this season. Anthony had been hoping to get that trip out of the way without having to wait until next year. ... Jeremy Lin had 28 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds, and Jerome Jordan scored 26 points as Erie beat Maine 122-113 on Friday night in the NBA Development League. Lin and Jordan were the first D-League assignments in Knicks history. ... Boxing champion Miguel Cotto, Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia and former Mets catcher Mike Piazza were seated courtside.