Knicks hoping for second-half surge

Carmelo Anthony, right, and J.R. Smith look at Carmelo Anthony, right, and J.R. Smith look at the scoreboard as they leave the court during a timeout in the second half of a game against the Toronto Raptors. (Feb. 13, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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Carmelo Anthony is hungry for a championship and says the Knicks are ready to win one, but he knows their actions have to do the talking.

"If we don't go out there and do it, everything I'm saying is irrelevant," Anthony said.

Crunch time is here for Anthony and the Knicks. There are 32 games remaining for a team that went into the All-Star break having lost three of four games but saying it has all the ingredients to win it all.

Teams go through slumps, but the Knicks (32-18) have tailed off for an extended period since starting 18-5. If they don't regain the commitment to defense and the continuity they displayed in November and December, they could fall short of their lofty goals.

"We have to get on the same page throughout entire games and throughout entire streaks," Tyson Chandler said. "We've shown that we can play with the best, especially in spurts, but in order to be the best, it can't be spurts. It has to be full-time."

The Knicks, who resume playing Wednesday night in Indiana, lead the Atlantic Division by 21/2 games over the Nets. Winning the division title is on their to-do list, but ultimately they'll be measured by their postseason showing.

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The Knicks built an older team, filled with players with big-game experience, hoping to end two lengthy droughts. They last won a playoff series in 2000 and last won an NBA title in 1973.

Kurt Thomas and Jason Kidd were the only Knicks alive the last time the franchise won a championship. Thomas was 7 months old and Kidd 21/2 months.

These next two months will be critical for the Knicks to reach their expectations. Their overconfidence throughout the first part of the season probably should be replaced by a sense of urgency, considering what's at stake.

They're second in the Eastern Conference, four games behind Miami, 11/2 games ahead of Indiana and three in front of Chicago. It could be imperative for the Knicks to be a top-two seed. It would give them the home-court advantage for multiple series, and if they were to finish second to the Heat, the Knicks would avoid the defending champs until the conference finals.

With Thursday's trade deadline looming, you can't rule out the Knicks making a move. But they have said they have enough to win.

The Knicks need to get healthy, though. Mike Woodson said he is "banking on" Rasheed Wallace returning from his foot injury after the break. They also need to help Kidd find the fountain of youth.

Amar'e Stoudemire has to play like someone making $20.4 million and the Knicks have to go back to running more plays and fewer isolations for Anthony.

They also have a difficult schedule -- 19 games against teams with winning records, including two each against the Heat and Thunder. The Knicks play 18 of their 32 games on the road.

That's what makes their focus so important. The Knicks can't afford to continue to have the slip-ups and breakdowns they've had since their strong start.

"You're going to have your ups and downs," Chandler said. "What you have to do is take a deep breath, come back and understand ultimately what the goal is. Keep your eyes on that and never stray from it."

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