Knicks star Carmelo Anthony holds the ball before a game...

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony holds the ball before a game against the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C. (Dec. 5, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

Carmelo Anthony's first instinct, especially during crunch time, is to shoot the ball. He said he's not playing instinctively but too passively right now.

For one of the NBA's most aggressive scorers and best closers, this is troublesome. Anthony said it has to change immediately.

In three games, Anthony has scored only 15 fourth-quarter points and hasn't attempted a free throw. He's 7-for-22 in the quarter, including 1-for-5 from three.

"Maybe I'm second-guessing myself," Anthony said after Monday's practice. "Maybe I'm a little bit passive out there, trying to do things that's out of the norm and trying to make people better at the wrong times. That's where I'm second-guessing myself and I'm second-guessing my shot and should I take this or should I pass this. I've got to get out of that mentality quick."

Anthony isn't the reason the Knicks, who host the Bobcats Tuesday, are 1-2. They have been turning the ball over more than last year, and their transition defense, overall effort and shot selection led to them falling behind by 23 in Sunday's loss to Minnesota.

But Anthony, who's shooting 37.7 percent and averaging 21.0 points, was invisible late in each of the Knicks' two defeats.

In the last 4:09 of Thursday's one-point loss in Chicago, Anthony was 0-for-5 and missed the game-winning shot, settling for a long pull-up. Sunday against the Timberwolves, Anthony was scoreless the last 5:54, and was 0-for-3 with a turnover after the Knicks drew within two with 4:49 left.

Anthony won't blame his struggles on playing less basketball this past offseason while rehabbing a torn left labrum and rotator cuff as opposed to last summer, when he was on the Olympic team. "There's no excuses behind that," Anthony said. "I got to get better. I got to do better. I got to put the ball in the hole. That's what I do best and I got to do that. There's no need for me to take that away from myself when I know that I can do that. When I do that, we're a hell of a team."

Mike Woodson defended Anthony and said the offensive woes are a teamwide problem. The Knicks are not sharing or taking care of the ball throughout the game and not just the fourth quarter. But they have committed 14 of their 53 turnovers in the fourth.

"I am not putting it all on Melo," Woodson said. "I think at times, he might be trying to make sure everybody is involved and being a part of it and that is OK, too. That is not getting us beat, guys."

Woodson said he probably would start the big frontcourt of Anthony, Andrea Bargnani and Tyson Chandler on Tuesday.

Bargnani was one of the few Knicks who shot well (6-for-10, 14 points) against Minnesota. Yet Bargnani, a defensive liability, sat the last 19:19 of the game as the smaller, two-point guard lineup led the comeback.

"I am going to start the big lineup again," Woodson said. "Maybe I am hardheaded but I am going to start it again and just see what it looks like."

The Knicks miss J.R. Smith, who is serving a suspension for failing a drug test. But Bargnani was acquired to be a secondary scoring option, and he's played only 3:49 in the fourth quarter. He has attempted one fewer shot than rookie reserve Tim Hardaway Jr.

"There's no need to panic," Anthony said. "It's three games into the season. We're still trying to figure a lot of things out."


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