It was an awful loss, the kind that might end up haunting the Knicks if they find themselves idle during the first round of the playoffs. But Carmelo Anthony said the team has no time to mourn the way it squandered a 17-point lead against the Cavaliers on Sunday night.
Instead, the Knicks have to concentrate on the task at hand: a five-game road trip that opens Tuesday night against the Lakers.
"I've got faith we can make a run," Anthony said after the loss to Cleveland ended the Knicks' winning streak at eight games. "We've been playing extremely well. As far as how many wins it's going to take to make it to the playoffs, who knows? We can't worry about how many wins. We gotta play."
The Knicks (29-41) will meet up with Phil Jackson, their new team president, when they get to Los Angeles. Then they will visit Sacramento, Phoenix, Golden State and Utah on the trip.
The Knicks are 21/2 games behind the eighth-place Hawks (31-38), who lost to the Suns, 102-95, Monday night. The Knicks and Hawks split their four games this season, but Atlanta has a better record against Eastern Conference teams, which is the next tiebreaker.
Coach Mike Woodson said before the Cleveland loss that he thought it would take 38 to 40 wins to get the last playoff spot, but he didn't want to get too involved in the math and various scenarios. Tyson Chandler, however, was willing to set the bar pretty high. "We've got to move on and we've got to do a good job on this West Coast trip and try to come away with a clean sweep," he said after the loss to the Cavaliers.
The Knicks will begin the trip against two of the easier opponents they'll face, which might help. Mike D'Antoni's Lakers (23-46) have lost seven of nine and might be without Pau Gasol, who has been diagnosed with vertigo. The Kings (25-45) are very beatable, though they didn't look that way when they beat the Knicks in overtime Feb. 12.
The surprising Suns (42-29) are fighting for the Western Conference's final playoff spot and will be a challenge. Then the Knicks will face the Warriors (44-27), and it's hard to imagine them containing Steph Curry if they had trouble with Cleveland's Jarrett Jack.
The Knicks conclude the trip against the Jazz (23-48), which has lost 12 of its last 14.
Even if the Knicks survive all that with their playoff hopes intact, it won't get easier. Their next game will be at the Garden against the Nets, who are the hottest team in the East.
For now, however, the Knicks are not looking that far ahead.
Said Amar'e Stoudemire: "We've got to keep winning and take it one game at a time."