Carmelo Anthony's balky left knee felt good enough for him to face the Suns. But by the end of the game, he and the rest of the Knicks had the same feeling of pain, frustration and doubt.
The Knicks led at the start of the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon at the Garden but lost another winnable game in a fashion similar to so many other losses this season.
Poor execution on both ends with the game on the line led to the Knicks' 99-90 loss to the Suns. It was their 14th defeat in the last 15 games, and they were booed as the clock wound down on their seventh straight home defeat.
The Knicks are 5-24 -- and more fragile than you might think.
"It's the same thing that's happening game in and game out," Anthony said. "I don't know if we believe in ourselves at that moment that we can win the basketball game or have a chance to win the basketball game. I think it's more mental than it is physical out there.
"I can just see it out there on the court that we don't believe in ourselves to be able to go down the stretch and win basketball games. I think it's going to take us to win the game down the stretch to get that confidence back and have us believing that we can win games at that time."
Anthony, who missed Thursday night's loss in Chicago because of his sore knee, had 25 points and 11 rebounds and shot 9-for-19 in 40:22. He plans to play Sunday afternoon against the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors (21-6) in Toronto.
Anthony said he's been told by "multiple people" to "shut it down." He maintains he's not thinking about doing that and has said he will try to avoid surgery at all costs. But with the losses mounting, he acknowledged he might be doing himself a disservice by playing through it.
"Maybe, but I try not to think about it like that," he said. "These past three days, I was able to just kind of get my body right and stay off of the leg a little bit. I felt pretty good out there. My knee felt good."
Jose Calderon scored 21 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. had 16 for the Knicks, who were missing Amar'e Stoudemire (recovery day), J.R. Smith (partial tear, left plantar fascia) and Iman Shumpert (dislocated left shoulder).
Eric Bledsoe led the Suns (14-14) with 25 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter, and 10 rebounds. Isaiah Thomas scored 22 off the bench and Markieff Morris added 19.
After falling behind 15-4 against the transition-minded Suns, the Knicks went ahead 47-40. Anthony's layup with 54.4 seconds left in the third quarter gave the Knicks a 68-64 lead, but they missed their next eight shots, were outscored 11-0 in a 4:11 stretch and fell behind 75-68.
With Anthony on the bench to start the fourth quarter, the Suns scored the first eight points of the period and outscored the Knicks 32-22 in the quarter.
"It's tough," Calderon said. "For sure, it's tough. If somebody is not frustrated about it, we got a problem."
After Anthony re-entered the game, the Knicks scored six unanswered points to get within one with 7:29 left. But the Suns shot 7-for-10 the rest of the way as the Knicks couldn't contain Bledsoe. The explosive guard scored nine of Phoenix's next 14 points. His scoop shot inside put the Suns up 89-84 with 3:22 to go.
Samuel Dalembert threw down a lob dunk to make it a three-point game, but the Knicks failed to score for the next 2:26. Phoenix opened a 95-86 lead with 1:34 left on Thomas' three-pointer.
"We just can't sustain it," Derek Fisher said. "We can have a good quarter here and there. We can have a good stretch here and there. But we just can't sustain it. You're seeing good things at times; other times you're not. That's why our record is what it is."