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Good Afternoon

Close losses raise Knicks’ frustration level

Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks sits

Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks sits on the scorers' table after just missing a game-winning shot at the buzzer against the Phoenix Suns at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Carmelo Anthony plopped himself on the scorers’ table at the Garden with the dazed expression of a man who had relived a bad dream. He didn’t feel the hands on his back — supportive fans patting his shoulder, trying to tell him it was going to be OK. He could only see all the things that went right, and then the one, pivotal thing that went wrong.

“I was zoned out,” Anthony said. “I was trying to relive that play. Relive that shot.”

He might as well relive this season while he’s at it, and parse all the hairline fractures that are leading to what looks like an unavoidable break.

Anthony’s potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer endured an extensive flirtation with the rim before finally spinning out Saturday night, leaving the Knicks (19-26) with a 107-105 loss to the Suns and 13 defeats in their last 16 games. They’ve lost three of their last four, and those three have been decided by a total of six points.

But this season has been cruel in ways that even the embarrassing seasons of yesteryear were not: The Knicks led all three of those games with 32 seconds left or less, all while trying to bat away the off-the-court drama that appears on a regular basis.

A missing Derrick Rose? Check. Phil Jackson calling out Anthony for his ball-stopping? Check. And now the percolating idea that the Knicks should find a way to part with Anthony before the Feb. 23 trade deadline. (Anthony would have to waive his no-trade clause.)

It’s impossible to say for certain that these small psychological hits are tampering with the overall product, but it certainly can’t help. Now the question is how willing the Knicks are to shake things up. Will they make a change just to make a change? With 37 games left, can they cobble together the 22 wins they need to white-knuckle their way to .500 and maybe have a shot at the playoffs?

All Anthony knows is that he can’t be the player his team needs him to be if that’s all he’s concerned about.

“I’m done kind of worrying about that,” he said. “My only focus is these guys in this locker room and playing with them. I can’t control anything else.”

Jeff Hornacek vaguely assessed the first-half circus Saturday night, though he did it amiably, as he is wont to do.

“Well, it’s been an interesting year!” he said. “There has been some distractions where we have had to kind of keep the guys together and the losing and minor injuries here and there. Overall, I would say the guys have done a pretty good job of staying together. We still look at like when we have had our guys, we have a good chance, and we lost some games that we can look back, but all we can do is look forward, and we are not that far out of it right now.”

The Knicks are 11th in the Eastern Conference, three games out of a playoff spot, and are set to play five of their next six games on the road (granted, one will be at Barclays Center). Courtney Lee said success will be predicated on how they respond to the game video and if they’re able to fix small mistakes that lead to big losses.

“It’s frustrating because we’re not winning,” Jeff Hornacek said, touching in part on some calls that didn’t go the Knicks’ way. “It’s usually balanced out over the course of the year. It’s just a bad stretch right now.”

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