In Carmelo Anthony's considered opinion, there is a way to describe his recent stretch: 44 points in Orlando, 44 points Monday night, a 41-point average in the past three games.

"Pointless,'' he said after the Knicks lost their third straight and maybe their most excruciating decision of the season, which is really saying something.

They erased an eight-point deficit within 37 seconds in the final 1:27 against Dallas at the Garden and had a chance to go ahead with eight seconds left.

Instead, Dirk Nowitzki, guarded by Anthony, made a jumper from the top of the key that hit just about everything possible, including the net, at the buzzer. It gave the Mavericks a 110-108 win and left Anthony feeling empty despite having filled it up.

Along with falling six games out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, the Knicks ruined another amazing night for their star. It was Anthony who had electrified the atmosphere by making a three-pointer with 50.3 seconds left that tied the score.

"The way he has played, it's a damn shame that we're in the position we're in,'' Mike Woodson said of the player he can barely afford to rest (Anthony played 41:42). "But I'm the coach and I've got to take blame for a lot of it. I'm trying to put them in the best position possible to win . . . Hopefully the breaks will start going our way a little bit.''

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In an effort to create a better ending, Woodson tried a different beginning, starting Amar'e Stoudemire for the first time since March 2012. Woodson believed the Knicks played big, physically and figuratively, in a 92-80 win in Dallas last month. It also was time to try anything after the Knicks blew late double-digit leads in their previous three defeats.

This time the tone was completely different. The Knicks rallied from a 14-point second-quarter deficit. They withstood 23 points by Vince Carter, who made 7 of 12 three-pointers, 22 by Monta Ellis and 20 by Jose Calderon. They didn't pack it in after Calderon hit a three-pointer with 1:55 left and fed Brandan Wright 18 seconds later for a 108-100 lead.

The Knicks ultimately had the game in the most capable hands, Anthony's, with just over half a minute to go and Carter guarding him. "I figured I could try to get to the rack, get fouled or get a closer shot. I didn't want to go for the three,'' he said. "But that's what I should have done.''

Woodson said, "He lost the handle on the ball and got jammed. He couldn't get his shot where he wanted it and he passed it out.''

Anthony dished to J.R. Smith, who went in the air against Ellis and could not get off a shot before the 24-second clock expired. Woodson added, "I thought he got bumped, but they're not going to make that call. Then Dirk just hit a hell of a shot. What can you say?''

You can say, as Tyson Chandler did after seeing Anthony do all he could to harass Nowitzki, then pointedly avoid contact: "Dirk is a big-time player and he hit a big-time shot.''

Even that took its painfully sweet time, as far as the Knicks were concerned. The ball oddly hit the backboard, then the back of the rim, then the front of the rim before popping in the air and dropping. Said Nowitzki, "Definitely an ugly shot.''

But despite his numbers, the scoresheet looked most unsightly to Anthony. On the way out of the locker room, he said, "I'd take the 'W' and 10 points.''