Threat of missing playoffs tests Carmelo Anthony's optimism

Carmelo Anthony is pushed away by teammate Raymond Carmelo Anthony is pushed away by teammate Raymond Felton after exchanging words with an Atlanta Hawks player in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Atlanta on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. Photo Credit: AP / John Bazemore

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Carmelo Anthony was sitting on the bench shaking his head as the Knicks lost another double-digit lead Saturday night. The body language on the court was worse and continued to worsen with each bad defensive possession.

It's become an all-too-familiar sight and trend for the Knicks. They have 26 games to dramatically change things, or Anthony will miss out on the playoffs for the first time in his 11-year career. "I can't imagine what that's like," he said. "I'm not even trying to think about that at this point. We still got a lot of basketball to play."

But Anthony admits his optimism is "definitely being tested" this season, and you wonder if his desire to stay with the Knicks is too.

Anthony has said he would be willing to take less money in free agency this summer if it helps the Knicks sign other players. He also has said winning is the only thing that matters to him. But the Knicks need a roster overhaul to make the giant leap back to contender.

They have lost eight of their last 10 games, are 14 games under .500 and began Sunday 51/2 games out of the Eastern Conference's last playoff spot.

The Knicks thought they would be able to make up ground on their recently concluded four-game trip. But they went 1-3 and blew leads in each loss.

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They were up five with 2:33 left in Memphis on Tuesday and lost by five. They led by 14 in the third quarter in Orlando on Friday and fell in double overtime. On Saturday, their collapse was even more egregious. They led the Hawks by 17 points in the third quarter and were up 14 with just over two minutes left in the quarter before getting outscored 50-27 the rest of the way.

"It seems like night in and night out, the same results," Tyson Chandler said. "We have leads, we have opportunities to win the ballgame, and down the stretch, we can't close games."

Said Anthony, "Finding a way to finish out games, finish out quarters is something we got to do and we have to do, coming down these next 20-something games that we have."

Given that the Knicks aren't winning games that they should, they're going to have to win some that maybe few think they will.

They play 15 of their last 26 games on the road, including two in Miami, one each in Chicago and Minnesota, and a five-game West Coast trip. Their next six games (and 18 overall) are against teams with better records than they have.

Mike Woodson, who has felt the heat all season for the Knicks' struggles, hasn't been able to get the most out of his players.

"I'm going to keep coaching and I'm going to keep pushing," he said. "If it means being naggy or whatever, that's my job. I got to get them over the hump. I've got to get us out of this funk we're in."

And time is running out.

Notes & quotes: The buyouts of Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih are expected to become official Monday.

The Dolan family owns

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controlling interests in the Knicks, Madison Square

Garden and Cablevision.

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