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Carmelo Anthony ready to lead Knicks out of first round, make a deep playoff run

Knicks' Carmelo Anthony yells out looking for a

Knicks' Carmelo Anthony yells out looking for a foul call from the officials after missing a shot in the fourth quarter. (April 3, 2013) Credit: AP

Carmelo Anthony was brought to New York two years ago to help the Knicks end their playoff drought and to lead them past bitter rival Boston and the star-studded Heat.

This could be the year all of that finally happens.

The Celtics swept the Knicks out of the playoffs in 2011. Last year, Miami beat the Knicks in five games, making it 12 years since they last won a series.

But this team is much different, and Anthony just completed his finest season as a pro and one of the best in Knicks history.

Anthony not only led the NBA in scoring but led the Knicks to 54 wins, their first Atlantic Division championship in 19 years and the No. 2 seed in the conference. But as great as it was, it won't mean as much if the Knicks don't win their first-round series against Boston.

"It's a big playoff series," Anthony said. "I did envision us being up at the top one or two in the Eastern Conference. I did envision us winning our division eventually. Right now, this playoff series is very important for myself. It's very important for us as a team, as a city, as an organization. We're looking forward to this series."

Anthony and the injured Amar'e Stoudemire are the only players remaining from the team Boston beat two springs ago, and payback is on Anthony's mind. The Knicks are thinking about extending this season as long as possible. It's been 40 years since the team's last NBA title.

They believe they're championship contenders and are getting some of their big men back. Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin are expected to play when the Boston series opens at the Garden Saturday.

If the Knicks shoot and defend the way they did during the last month -- they won 13 consecutive games and 16 of their last 18 -- they could be on a collision course to face the defending NBA champion Heat again, this time in the conference finals.

"We're different as a team," Anthony said. "As an organization, we're a lot different than we were a year and a half, two years ago. The mind-set is a lot different. My mind-set right now is a lot different."

The Knicks added older, skilled, tough-minded players who have had regular-season and playoff success, believing they would complement Anthony and other returning players from last season.

Despite the many AARP jokes because the Knicks assembled the NBA's oldest team, many of the moves have worked.

Anthony had an MVP-caliber season. J.R. Smith is a leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. Even though the Knicks had several key players miss significant time, including Anthony, Chandler, Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and Rasheed Wallace, they had their highest win total in 16 years.

"I've seen a team with a lot of heart that's committed," coach Mike Woodson said. "Everybody in that locker room has been committed all season."

"Management put this team together for a reason," Jason Kidd said. "No matter how old we are, we find a way to win and good things have happened. Not just our age but the young guys are playing great. Melo and J.R., that's the core. We got a bunch of old guys that were thrown in here to just keep the thing together."

The combination of old and young has been the right mix. Anthony trusts his teammates and plays hard for Woodson. The Knicks have followed Anthony's lead and are confident the winning will continue.

"People close to me always told me when I came to New York, this would be a two-, three-year process," Anthony said. "It seems like right now everything is starting to fall into place. It seems like we're just starting to play great basketball and put New York back where they're supposed to be."

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