GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Few would have circled Wednesday night's's game between the Knicks and Sacramento at the beginning of the season. Yet with the Knicks having lost four of their last five games and rumors persisting about Mike Woodson's job security, the game against the 17-35 Kings is beginning to look like a must win.
At least, so says the Knicks' most important player.
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"We gotta win. We gotta win tomorrow. We have to win,'' Carmelo Anthony said after practice Tuesday. "There's nothing more than that. We have to win.''
It's the Knicks' final game before the All-Star break, and the team wants to finish the unofficial first half of the season on an up note. The Knicks (20-31) have been playing fairly well at home as of late. Since Jan. 7, they are 8-5 at Madison Square Garden.
On the flip side, another loss to a team with a losing record could increase the feeling of insecurity on a team that is already on shaky ground. It isn't only Woodson who has to be feeling a sense of job insecurity. With the Feb. 20 trade deadline right around the corner, no one, not even Anthony, if you believe some Internet reports, knows for sure that he will be wearing a Knicks uniform by the end of the month.
Woodson, who still believes his team can make the playoffs, said the best thing is to concentrate on the opponent at hand.
"This is an important game as we head into the break because it keeps us in the hunt in terms of where we're trying to get as a team,'' Woodson said. "The eighth, seventh and sixth playoff spots are all bunched together. You've got hungry teams -- Charlotte, Detroit, us, Brooklyn, Chicago -- all sitting there. Boston's there too. We're all fighting to get into the playoffs. It should be a race to the finish line.''
Notes & quotes:J.R. Smith fractured his left cheekbone in Sunday's loss at Oklahoma City. He was not at practice Tuesday but is expected to play Wednesday night while wearing a protective face mask. Smith suffered the injury when his face hit Kevin Durant's knee while falling to the floor in the fourth quarter. "He says he can play, so he won't miss a game, that's good,'' Woodson said. "We're hoping he can play well with the mask he wears.'' . . . Tim Hardaway Jr. had to leave a scrimmage Tuesday after banging his left leg. Woodson didn't seem too concerned. "He'll play tomorrow,'' he said. "Timmy's a tough kid. He'll be just fine.''
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