OAKLAND, Calif. - As the Hawks help keep the Knicks' playoff hopes alive, Warriors coach Mark Jackson believes his former team would be dangerous if they reach the postseason.
His reason: Carmelo Anthony.
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"You got a home run hitter in your lineup,'' he said before the Knicks faced the Warriors Sunday night. "You got a guy who's capable of winning games single-handedly, a guy who makes everybody around him better.
"People say, 'Well, he's not averaging 10 assists,' but his presence alone on the offensive end elevates everybody else's play and he makes everybody else a weapon. He certainly makes them a team you don't want to face because of his ability to be the best player on the floor in any series.''
Anthony is having one of his best all-around seasons as a pro, averaging 28.1 points and 8.2 rebounds. He's playing on a tender right ankle he twisted Wednesday in Sacramento. But he said he can't miss any time now and is willing to play whatever minutes Mike Woodson needs.
The Knicks entered Sunday night 1½ games behind Atlanta with nine left. Every game is basically a must-win because the Knicks have a more difficult schedule than the eighth-place Hawks, who face the 76ers Monday night. The Sixers ended a 26-game losing streak Saturday night. Of course, the Hawks aren't much better, having lost 20 of their last 26.
The Cavaliers also are breathing down the Knicks' neck. Cleveland is in 10th place, just one game behind the Knicks entering Sunday night.
"It's right there in our hands, but it's not what Atlanta does,'' Woodson said. "It's really what we do the rest of the way out. We've got a tough schedule going down the homestretch.''
The Knicks close out this trip Monday night in Utah, their last game against a sub-.500 team. After returning from this five-game trip, they will host the Nets and Wizards, play at Miami and Toronto, host the Bulls, play at Brooklyn and host the Raptors.
"There are no gimmes,'' Woodson said. "So it's all about what we do from this point out.''
Missed defensive assignments, lack of effort and bad body language have plagued the Knicks lately, and they had dropped three of four before Sunday night. On the other hand, Woodson pointed to their 9-3 mark in their last 12 games.
"That's an indication the system has been working and most games we've been focused,'' he said. "We're playing decent basketball, but we got to beat a good team. We got to prove that we can come out on the road and beat a good team.''
Jackson on Jackson. Mark Jackson, who grew up a Knicks fan in Brooklyn and later starred for them, said he expects new president Phil Jackson to have a positive impact.
"I'm sure he'll be great,'' he said. "He's an all-time great coach in the history of sports, not just basketball, but in sports alone. His body of work speaks for itself. Obviously, he's a very wise man that understands the game of basketball and knows what it takes to be a winner and to build a winner. I'm sure he'll do just great in New York.''
How well does he know the Knicks' new president? "Just going against him and him giving Scottie Pippen orders to harass me and foul me and grab me every time coming up the court, then giving those same orders to Kobe [Bryant],'' he said. "Just know him from competing against his teams.''
Notes & quotes: The Warriors were missing David Lee (strained hamstring) and Andrew Bogut (pelvis/groin contusion).