Carmelo Anthony was unaware that he had logged 41 minutes Saturday in the second night of a back-to-back. If the Knicks are going to make an improbable push for the playoffs, he is prepared to do whatever is necessary.
“I’m going to have to,” he said. “I already put that in my head that I’m going to have to [go all] out and go for it and see what happens.”
Of course, Anthony’s surgically repaired left knee has to hold up to the extra weight of trying to carry the Knicks, who are six games out of a playoff spot with 25 to play.
He said his knee felt fine during and after his 30-point performance that led the Knicks past Minnesota on Saturday night. But there were times when he didn’t appear to be moving very well.
The Knicks (24-33) will play their third game in four nights on Monday night against Toronto, so Anthony’s knee will be tested. They’re 0-7 when he sits, so keeping him strong and healthy will be key to any hopes the Knicks have.
“My knee felt good,” he said. “I didn’t really feel anything. Legs feel like they’re starting to come back to me a little bit.”
Interim coach Kurt Rambis has made it clear that the Knicks’ only goal is to make the playoffs, and he will rely on his best player to lead the way.
The two have had a conversation about that and what Rambis expects of Anthony as the Knicks attempt to leap over four teams and reach the postseason for the first time in three years.
“If we’re going to make a push, he’s going to be expected to carry a lot of the offensive load for us,” Rambis said.
“I’m anticipating that he’s going to play in every single ballgame. And he’s going to play as long as we need him to play to get wins. If our only goal is to make the playoffs, he’s got to be a major contributor to that. So we anticipate him playing all the time.”
Anthony agrees. “Whatever I got to do to try and get these wins, I’m going to do it,” he said. “So whatever he needs me to do.”
The Knicks hurt their chances by coming out of the All-Star break and losing to the Nets on Friday night. With the schedule ahead of them, they can’t afford to lose many games that are considered winnable.
They play their next seven games against teams with better records. Immediately after that, they will go on a six-game road trip, including five out West, and play nine of 12 away from Madison Square Garden.
Anthony can’t do it all by himself. He got some help in Minnesota as Robin Lopez had his best game as a Knick: 26 points and 16 rebounds.
Kristaps Porzingis’ play has dropped off in recent weeks. He got in foul trouble against leading Rookie of the Year candidate Karl-Anthony Towns and was a non-factor, finishing with six points in 12 minutes.
The Knicks will need more consistency from Porzingis and improved backcourt play, which has been lacking for most of the season. If Anthony has to do too much, he could break down,
“Everybody has got to step up,’’ Rambis said, “and everybody has got to make sacrifices. If that means more time in recovery and getting the treatment necessary so he can play longer minutes and can play strong in back-to-backs or three-games- in-four-nights situations, then that’s just what he has to do. That’s what we all have to do.”