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Knicks take to road looking to shore up defense

Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks

Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks looks on during the game against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 25, 2016. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mike Stobe

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — It was wheels up for the Knicks after practice Tuesday at the MSG Training Center, flying off for a three-games-in-four-nights trip. In the eyes of Carmelo Anthony, this remade team is headed up in more ways than one.

“I like where we’re at, considering this team coming together for the first time two months ago,” Anthony said. “ . . . Guys are starting to feel more comfortable out there with one another and . . . with what we’re trying to do. I know we’ve got to get better. I know we will get better.”

There are indeed some tarnished edges to polish by a group that stands at 16-14.

Winning on the road, for one. Winning against winning teams, for another. And the Knicks need to stop the other guys from piling up the points.

In the eyes of Joakim Noah, that last factor is the “X” factor. The Knicks are seeking more chemistry on defense, which was a point of emphasis at the center’s old Chicago home.

“We definitely worked on it a lot more,” Noah said. “I think it was pressed on us. It was pressed on us every day. I think everybody here cares. I think this is a group that wants to do well. We’re not far.”

The Knicks fell, 119-114, to Boston on Christmas at Madison Square Garden, bringing their average points allowed to 107.9, 25th in the rankings.

“We all know that we have to build an identity on that part of the floor, including myself,” Noah said. “I have to do a lot better on that end. We all do. We have to build an identity, want it more, find who we are . . .

“If we want to be where we want to be at the end of this, we definitely have to pick it up, and I think we’re capable of it.”

The NBA generally has a pick-and-roll flavor. The Knicks’ communication against it has been an issue.

“When we do it, we’re a great defensive team,” Anthony said. “If not, we’re a bad defensive team. There’s no in-between with us. Either it’s good or bad.” Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick Rose are good at filling up the basket.

“We have three guys on this team that can score with the best of them,” Noah said. “If we can just somehow find a way to build defensively, I think we can really make some noise.”

They haven’t made much noise against teams that currently live north of .500. The Knicks are 2-10 against them.

There are two sub-.500 teams dead ahead. The Knicks open at Atlanta (15-16) Wednesday night, then move on to face New Orleans (12-21) Friday night, then play at Houston (23-9 before Tuesday night’s game at Dallas) Saturday night. They beat Atlanta and lost to Houston at the Garden last month.

The thing is, the Knicks are just 5-9 on the road after dropping the last three on their previous five-game trip out west.

“If you’re going to be a playoff team, you’ve got to be able to win road games,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “ . . . Whenever you go on the road, you have to have a different level of play to win games. So that’s our next step.”

Notes & quotes: Guard Courtney Lee didn’t practice because of a sore right wrist that he aggravated against Boston. “I think he’ll play,” Hornacek said. “It’s sore, but the docs looked at it. He’s OK. He’ll get treatment. He’s been playing with it anyway.” Forward Maurice Ndour (sprained right ankle) also didn’t practice and is doubtful.

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