The Knicks can't continue to chalk up their losses to injuries. They surely miss Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni. But the excuses, some of the apathy and bad body language they're showing don't breed confidence for a turnaround.
After Friday's 12-point loss to the Raptors, Mike Woodson said the Knicks "fatigued" down the stretch because they're undermanned. After Saturday's 15-point defeat in Toronto, Woodson said he "liked the way we fought," since they cut a 21-point deficit to six.
Even some of the more forthcoming and competitive Knicks, Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith, didn't express any frustration or embarrassment after Saturday's loss. The Raptors were blowing the Knicks out in the second half before Amar'e Stoudemire led the Knicks back.
"We got to look ourselves in the mirror and really ask ourselves are we truly giving ourselves the full effort to want to win," Stoudemire said.
"We just can't get comfortable with this record. We can't lose confidence in who we are as a player and as a team. We got to keep working hard at it and hopefully we can get out of this rut."
Besides injuries, other constants this season for the Knicks have been a lack of effort, poor execution late in close games and repeated defensive breakdowns. They have lost three straight by a combined 56 points.
Three teams in the Atlantic Division have been accused of trying to tank this season in hopes of getting a top draft pick -- the Raptors, Celtics and 76ers. The Knicks (9-21), who believed they were a championship contender, are looking up at two of them. Philadelphia was just one-half game behind the Knicks heading into Sunday's action.
"The only way to get out of it is keep fighting," Smith said. "Nobody's going to feel sorry for us. Nobody's going to let us walk into their building or our building and get a 'W'. We've got to fight for it and earn it."
The Knicks don't play until Thursday, when they open a three-game Texas trip in San Antonio. Their three-game losing skid could easily become six if the Knicks continue to play the way they have.
They're hoping to have Anthony back from a sprained left ankle that has kept him out of the last three games. Since Anthony left in the third quarter of last Monday's win in Orlando, the Knicks have been outscored by 71 points. Prigioni also could return during the trip.
But Kenyon Martin, one of the only Knicks seemingly agitated after Saturday's game, said it's more than just getting key players back.
"We just need wins," Martin said. "We start the New Year on the road, but we just need wins. All we need to be focusing on, just coming out and trying to better our situation. That's what needs to be on everyone's mind over the next few days and hopefully we can start the New Year off the right way.
"It's about going out and just winning basketball games. That's all it can be. Can't be nothing else."