WASHINGTON, D.C. - With the losses mounting, Mike Woodson sat with Carmelo Anthony at practice Friday to find out what he was thinking.
One defeat later -- the Knicks' fifth straight -- Anthony said Saturday night that he's staying positive but is concerned about the locker room overall.
The Knicks started fast but wilted late, opening their four-game road trip with a 98-89 loss to the Wizards at the Verizon Center that dropped them to 3-9.
The Knicks couldn't stop explosive point guard John Wall, who had 31 points and seven assists. In the second half, they stopped moving the ball, settled for long jumpers and were outscored 49-37.
"It's a very tough time right now," Anthony said. "It's a time where you can easily put your head down and mope around. But I can't do that. I got to be there for myself, I got to be there for my team.
"I worry about other guys doing that. This is tough for anybody to go through. Especially games you believe you should be winning, guys feel they should be playing better, we feel like we should be playing better as a team. Guys could easily lose confidence in a situation like that."
And the reality is that this might have been the easiest game on the trip.
The Knicks play at Portland Monday, the Clippers on Wednesday and Denver on Friday. Also, the Wizards were completing a back-to-back while the Knicks hadn't played since Wednesday, but Washington (5-8) had fresher legs and executed better late.
The Knicks made only three field goals in the game's final seven minutes and scored nine points in that time.
"We've got to play freely," Amar'e Stoudemire said after his best game of the season. "Right now we're not moving the ball well. We're not spacing the court. It's not great. So until we get that figured out, it's going to be tough for us."
Anthony led the Knicks with 23 points and 12 rebounds. J.R. Smith added 15 points, including 13 in the second half, but was 0-for-4 from the foul line. The Knicks shot 6-for-15 on free throws to the Wizards' 17-for-22.
Stoudemire was the Knicks' lone bright spot. He shot 5-for-5, all in the first half, and had a season-best 12 points in a season-high 21:37. It was the first time he reached double figures in scoring since March 7 against Oklahoma City. A few days later, the Knicks announced that he needed surgery on his right knee.
"It's a bittersweet moment for me as far as getting back on the basketball court but at the same time, losing a game is never a good feeling," Stoudemire said. "We've got to regroup."
Wall made his first seven shots and finished 10-for-18. Backcourt mate Bradley Beal added 18 points as the Wizards' starting backcourt outscored Knicks starting guards Beno Udrih and Iman Shumpert 49-8.
Martell Webster scored 19 points and shot 5-for-10 from three-point range. Marcin Gortat added 16 points and 17 rebounds, seven of them offensive.
Things started turning for the Knicks late in the first half. They led 50-41 with 2:24 remaining but gave up a three-pointer, a layup and three-point play as Washington cut its deficit to three at halftime. The Knicks lost the lead 1:48 into the second half and never regained it.
Down seven to start the fourth, the Knicks put together a little run to close to 81-78 on Anthony's jumper with 8:11 left. But Webster's back-to-back three-pointers crushed the Knicks.
They trailed 89-83 after Anthony scored his last basket of the game with 4:45 left. But Wall knocked down a three-pointer on the Wizards' next possession, and after Anthony missed a three, Wall's free throw put the Knicks in a 93-83 hole with 3:59 left.
Smith's three-pointer made it 93-86 with 3:20 to go, but the Knicks didn't score again until Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a three-pointer with 46.9 seconds left.
"We ain't playing good basketball right now," Anthony said, "and we got to fix that."