Turns out the early exodus of Knicks was just beginning.
Anthony was called for his second technical, earning an automatic ejection, with 6:45 left after he was whistled for a foul on Joakim Noah's offensive rebound and apparently said something to referee Olandis Poole.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson and centre Tyson Chandler were also ejected from the foul-filled game, and Chicago beat New York for the second time this season, 110-106 on Friday night.
Anthony finished with 29 points on 10-of-25 shooting, ending his streak of four straight 30-point games. The Knicks lost for the second time in three home games after winning their first 10.
Chandler and Noah were tossed after a fourth-quarter altercation, shortly after Woodson had been ejected following his second technical. The coach drew a loud ovation during his walk to the back from Knicks fans who angrily booed the officiating for much of the second half.
"I was actually in here, and then I just heard the crowd screaming and yelling, and I walked to the hallway, and Woody was walking back. Then I was actually in the shower, came back and Tyson was sitting right next to me," Anthony said. "So once I saw that, that's how the night was going."
"Things happen," Noah said. "Things happen, but we won the basketball game. I wish that we wouldn't have gotten ejected. Two guys just trying to go for a rebound and unfortunately guys got ejected."
When asked specifically about a possible suspension, the emotional centre seemed incredulous.
"Suspension?" Noah said. "For what? What did I do?"
"They were tangled up," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said of the play. "Jo played a great game until ... you can't put it in the officials' hands and we should have all recognised that. They had enough, they weren't taking anybody talking to them. I think (Noah) was trying to make a point and he got thrown (out) so that hurt us."
Luol Deng had season highs of 29 points and 13 rebounds for the Bulls despite briefly leaving the game with an injured left shoulder. He will be re-evaluated Saturday. Marco Belinelli added 22 points as Chicago won for the fourth time in five games.
Noah finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in completely outplaying Chandler, who took only one shot and was limited to five points and eight boards.
Chandler insisted he and Noah didn't fight and shouldn't have been ejected from a game that featured nine technicals.
"It was just an ugly game in general and then things contributed from there," Chandler said.
Kirk Hinrich had 16 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Bulls, who were totally shutting the Knicks down until allowing 45 mostly meaningless points in the fourth quarter after Chicago had led by 25 in the third.
"You get a 25-point lead on the road against a team like this, you're doing a lot of good things," Thibodeau said. "I'm disappointed with our approach and discipline in the fourth quarter, starting with my fourth-quarter technical. So we gave up 45 points and that's not good. That's not the way we want to close a game."
The Knicks were held to season lows of 85 points and 32.1 percent shooting in an eight-point loss in Chicago on Dec. 8, when Anthony was sidelined by a cut on his finger that required stitches. Woodson said before the game he thought the Knicks got good shots that night and just missed them, expecting his team would deliver a better performance at home with Anthony in the lineup.
Instead, the Knicks were never really in the game on a rare off night from Anthony, the NBA's second-leading scorer. The score got close in the final minutes, but the outcome had long been decided.
Once the game got away from the Knicks, so did their emotions, questioning calls that were made or arguing for ones that weren't. Chandler and Noah were battling for a rebound when they got tangled up and began jawing, and may have even made contact with their heads before they were separated.
"(Things) were definitely escalating, but I don't think they're used to being down that much, too," Noah said. "If they were up 20 points, I don't think they would have been that frustrated."
The fans weren't happy, either. Spike Lee stood a couple of feet behind referee Zach Zarba from his courtside seat in the fourth quarter, staring a hole through Zarba after one call went against the Knicks.
The Knicks had much bigger problems than the officiating.
They missed 10 of their first 11 shots as Chicago raced to a 14-2 lead. The advantage grew to 30-17 when Deng made a 3-pointer, and Belinelli followed with a free throw after Anthony was called for a technical foul after arguing a no-call on the other end. New York got it down to 30-23 when J.R. Smith made a 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer.
"I think from the jump they were the more physical team from the beginning of the game and it carried out throughout the whole game. It kind of got to us a little bit," Anthony said. "We reacted rather than coming out from the jump being the more aggressive team and we found ourselves in a hole, and by the time we tried to be aggressive it was a little bit too late at that point in time."
The Knicks cut it to 42-37 midway through the second quarter before their offense stalled again. Chicago scored 12 straight points, taking its biggest lead at 54-37 on a free throw by Carlos Boozer with 10.9 seconds remaining, before Anthony stopped the Knicks' 5-minute scoreless drought with a driving layup with 3.2 seconds to go.
Smith had 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks, who fell to 19-7. Their 19 wins through 25 games was bettered only twice in franchise history, when they were 23-2 in 1969-70 and 20-5 in 1972-73. They won the NBA title both times.
Deng appeared to hurt his left shoulder in the third quarter when Jason Kidd reached in on him, but returned to the game after using a heating pad on the bench.
"We're going to check again (Saturday), but I don't know exactly what it is," Deng said. "Something with the ligament there, I don't know if I sprained or ... we'll see. It's almost like a pulled muscle. I never had anything like this, but it just feels like a pulled muscle or a sprained tendon. I really don't know."