Carmelo Anthony, Mike Woodson need to avoid a sweep

Interim head coach Mike Woodson and Carmelo Anthony

Interim head coach Mike Woodson and Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks. (March 14, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Carmelo Anthony and Mike Woodson were largely responsible for the Knicks' 18-6 regular-season finish, and they could have the most to lose if they're swept out of the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year.

Anthony's tremendous play the last month of the season hasn't translated to the playoffs. LeBron James and the Heat have shut down Anthony in the first three games and have him staring at a first-round elimination for the eighth time in nine postseasons.

Despite what Woodson did after replacing Mike D'Antoni on March 14, he could be coaching his final game with the Knicks if they lose Game 4 on Sunday. Woodson hasn't been given any assurances either way.

But Woodson is sure that if he's back, he has to change some things so the Knicks -- who have lost an NBA-record 13 consecutive playoff games dating to 2001 -- don't experience this again. He also said Anthony has to do more to change his postseason legacy.

"Melo is going to have to raise his game," Woodson said Friday. "He's got to do some things this summer to better his game as well as Tyson [Chandler] and Amar'e [Stoudemire] and all the supporting cast that might return.

"If I'm the head coach here, I got to make sure that that happens, because that's the only way you're going to get out of the rut in terms of him being a first-round exit. He's got to change that. Us not winning a playoff game, that's got to change on my part along with the guys that return."

Woodson brought up Anthony's conditioning as one thing he needs to improve.

"I think he's made major strides this year," Woodson said. "When we started this journey, he made guys around him better and he was better for it. I just think there's got to be a continuation.

"I've got to push him to be in better shape when you start the season. Everybody's got to be in better shape. There's a lot of things that's got to be changed. Not a lot of things, but there's got to be some changes for this team to really get to the next level."

Anthony, who was unavailable to speak to the media, has reached the playoffs all nine seasons he's been in the NBA. But his teams have won only two series; he led the 2008-09 Nuggets to the Western Conference finals. Overall, he's lost 13 of his last 14 playoff games, including all seven as a Knick.

In fairness to Anthony, the Knicks haven't been at full strength in those two series against the Celtics and Heat. Stoudemire was compromised the last three games last year with back spasms. This year, Stoudemire missed Game 3 after cutting his hand punching a glass-enclosed fire extinguisher, but he could return for Game 4.

But Anthony, who is averaging 21 points and shooting 22-for-64 (34.4 percent) in this series, still carries the brunt of the weight for his team's playoff failures.

Woodson also has a negative personal streak; his Hawks were swept out of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals by the Magic. Woodson has lost his last seven playoff games by an average of 23 points. But he said all he's concerned with is extending this season.

"Our backs are against the wall, man," Woodson said. "We are desperately trying to make a series out of this. The only way to do it is we have to win Game 4 to force Game 5. Our fans deserve a win. This organization deserves a win. We've got to go out and give it all we can."

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