The Knicks played like a team that was looking past the Raptors and ahead to the All-Star break. Some of the Knicks looked as if they needed the break.
Carmelo Anthony suffered "a deep contusion" in his right biceps in the first quarter that could keep him out of Sunday's All-Star Game. He endured one of his worst shooting nights of the season (5-for-24) in an overall bad performance by the Knicks, an ugly 92-88 loss to Toronto Wednesday night at the Garden.
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"It's very disappointing," Anthony said after his 12-point night. "This time right now is definitely a time we need to just refocus, regroup, come back after the break with a new mind-set, and leave this half of the season behind us and get ready to make a push and make a run."
The Knicks (32-18) have their best record after 50 games since going 36-14 during the 1996-97 season. But after starting 18-5, they've gone 14-13.
Mike Woodson and several players said they still believe they have a shot at the title. But they haven't played like a championship contender lately, as they've lost three of four.
"We'll try and figure it out, get back to playing how we were playing earlier," Woodson said. "But we got a lot of work on our hands. We do."
Anthony's health was of immediate concern. Elbowed in his biceps trying to defend DeMar DeRozan, Anthony said he had "dead arm." He missed nine consecutive shots over the second, third and fourth quarters. He was 1-for-4 from the line, grabbed 12 rebounds and committed four turnovers.
After a steal, Anthony had a chance to bring the Knicks within one with 2:40 left, but missed a fast-break layup. He said if he's still in pain this weekend he may not play in Houston.
"I'm not going to force it, definitely not going to force it," he said. "As bad as I would want to play in the All-Star Game, participate, if I can't go, I can't go."
The Knicks need Anthony healthy after the break. Slow starts, poor defense and a tendency to overlook teams has haunted them since their fast start.
They led by 11 in the second quarter, but shot just 14-of-50 in the final 28:11. Exacerbating matters was they stopped defending. The Raptors (21-32) shot 53 percent in the second half.
J.R. Smith's 26 points led the Knicks. Raymond Felton had 16 points and four turnovers, three in the fourth quarter. Alan Anderson was 6-of-8 from three and led the Raptors (21-32) with 26 points off the bench.
The Knicks started falling apart in a chippie third quarter that featured five technical fouls and the ejection of Raptors guard Kyle Lowry. The Knicks shot 4-for-21 and missed seven foul shots, falling behind by five heading to the fourth.
The Raptors hit their first two shots to extend to 69-60. The Knicks drew within 83-80, but Anthony missed the layup. After Rudy Gay's foul shot made it a four-point game, the Knicks misfired on their next four shots.
John Lucas III's fadeaway jumper from the baseline with :54.8 left made it 86-80. Two Felton foul shots made it a four-point game with 48.5 seconds left. But the Knicks would get no closer and went into the break in a bad way for a team talking about contending for a title.