GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The good news for the Knicks: Carmelo Anthony insisted Saturday that the shoulder injury he aggravated Friday night won't keep him out of Sunday's game against the Heat.
The bad news: There wasn't much else in the way of good news.
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Anthony, who repeatedly rubbed and stretched his right shoulder during practice, said the pain was a factor in his performance against the Wizards and likely will continue to affect him but not enough to keep him from playing in the Knicks' final five games.
"I'm trying to figure out how I can lift my arm up and do the things I need to," said Anthony, who self-diagnosed the injury as a deep bruise or strain. "It's tight, so it's hard to lift it up . . . everything. That's where you get your strength from -- shooting, dribbling, passing the ball."
He did none of those things particularly well in Friday night's 90-89 loss to Washington, which dropped the Knicks a game behind the Hawks for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Anthony scored a season-low 10 points, shot 5-for-14 and committed nine turnovers. He also lost the ball while attempting a potential winning pull-up jumper in the waning seconds.
Mike Woodson expects Anthony to play Sunday, but the coach said Friday was "the first time I've seen him struggle all season in terms of handling the ball and being able to make plays."
In fact, Woodson said he didn't intend for Anthony to take the shot on the Knicks' last possession. He said he drew up a play similar to the one on the previous possession, with multiple passes, that resulted in Raymond Felton hitting a go-ahead three-pointer.
"I figured if you put it back in Melo's hands and run the pick-and-roll again, they would trap him," Woodson said. "I wasn't looking for Melo to shoot. I was looking for him to pass the ball to either Amar'e [Stoudemire] rolling or, if they took Amar'e away, you had shooters around. But it just didn't unfold that way."
Anthony said he first hurt the shoulder Wednesday night against the Nets when he got his arm tangled with Joe Johnson and that he felt discomfort before and throughout the Wizards game. But the injury, Anthony said, isn't nearly as severe as the one he suffered in the playoffs last year. "I tore my labrum and part of my rotator cuff [last season]," Anthony said. "This is nothing like that."
Nevertheless, the Knicks have an uphill battle in pursuing the final playoff berth, and the fact that their star player is limited certainly makes that more daunting.
On Sunday afternoon in Miami, the Knicks (33-44) will face the Heat (52-23), which is looking to secure first place in the Eastern Conference and coming off a frustrating overtime loss to the Timberwolves -- which means the Knicks probably won't have the benefit of facing a complacent squad. The Hawks (33-42) will play the Pacers (53-24) Sunday night in Indiana.
"[Atlanta's] schedule might be a little lighter than ours based on the teams they're playing," Woodson said. "But we've got five games left and we're playing pretty good basketball . . . We can't afford to let any more slip away."