Monday, March 28, 2011
Carmelo Anthony: Knicks face must-win
By Ian Begley
Special to ESPNNewYork.com
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- For his first 19 games as a member of the New York Knicks, Carmelo Anthony preached patience when he talked about the team's struggles.
Apparently, the time for patience is now over because Anthony said Monday's game against Orlando is a must-win.
"For our own confidence, our own satisfaction, it's a must-win for us," Anthony said after the team's shootaround Monday morning. "I think if we approach the game like that tonight, good things will happen."
The Knicks have lost six straight and are three games below .500 for the first time since Nov. 19. They are just 7-12 since trading for Anthony on Feb. 21 and enter play Monday in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, three games ahead of Indiana for the conference's eighth and final playoff spot.
The Knicks took Sunday off after a 114-106 road loss to Charlotte on Saturday night. Coach Mike D'Antoni held a morning shootaround on the day of a home game for the first time this season on Monday.
He said after the shootaround that the team has struggled to play with intensity for a full 48 minutes during its skid, adding that it was time to "draw a line in the sand and play as hard as we can play." The coach also was concerned about consecutive losses taking a toll on the Knicks' mental approach.
"We're not a real confident team right now because we're losing all the time," he said.
The Knicks have lost all three games to Orlando this season, the last coming at the Garden on March 23 when they were outscored by 11 in the fourth quarter of a 111-99 loss. Fourth-quarter struggles have been a common theme throughout the Knicks' recent skid. They've also struggled against the teams behind them in the standings, losing eight games to Eastern Conference squads with losing records since acquiring Anthony.
Anthony on Monday seemed confident that the Knicks would improve their play late in games.
"Me and Amare [Stoudemire] are two guys who can close out games, Chauncey [Billups] is a guy who can close out games," he said. "We've been in situations where we close out games before so ... we've just got to figure out what's really going on out there in the fourth quarter and just get it done."
Knicks general manager Donnie Walsh expressed concern that the team's slide -- New York has lost nine of 10 -- is affecting his coach. The six-game losing streak is tied for a season high. The Knicks also suffered through six-game skids in November and January.
"It's not easy to lose anywhere in the franchise but the coach is on the front line and it can get old," Walsh said. "You're going to go home at night, not sleep. The only thing I've said to Mike, 'Don't get overwrought with this thing,' because most coaches do. They go home and they're thinking about it, they don't sleep. Some of them come in early in the morning and go over film and that kind of stuff. I hope he's not doing that because I'm sure he's doing every single thing he can do."
D'Antoni has tweaked the starting lineup recently, inserting Toney Douglas at guard and forcing rookie Landry Fields to the bench. The coach did not provide a starting lineup for the Orlando game on Monday morning.
D'Antoni has also opted to rest his team twice in recent days instead of practicing. He said Monday's shootaround was a product of the schedule (the Knicks returned home early Sunday morning after the Charlotte game) and was noncommittal when asked if he'd hold morning shootarounds for the rest of the season.
Anthony, who referred to the Magic game as a must-win twice on Monday after saying earlier in the interview that it was "almost a must-win," noted that the team appreciated Sunday's off-day.
"Just to get a chance to rest and not do anything, just rejuvenate our bodies," Anthony said.
The Knicks have played six sets of back-to-back games in March and twice have played four games in five nights. In all, they are scheduled to play 18 games this month.
Ian Begley is a frequent contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.