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Melo does what he can to prepare to avoid sweep

Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks

Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks looks on late in the game against the Miami Heat during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. (May 3, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Carmelo Anthony was the last Knick to leave the court Saturday, getting up extra shots, perhaps to try to regain the rhythm he had before running into the Heat in the playoffs.

Anthony hopes it's not the last time the Knicks practice this season. But unless they beat the Heat Sunday and force a fifth game in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, Anthony and the Knicks will have been swept out of the first round for the second consecutive year.

"Not winning at all, it hurts," Anthony said. "I feel that. I go home at night. I think about that. Right now, my focus is [Sunday]. Them three games is behind us. [Sunday] is all we got."

The Knicks were overmatched by the Heat in the first three games. They've lost by an average of 20 points, have averaged 77 points and have scored more than 70 only once.

Amar'e Stoudemire might return Sunday after missing Game 3 with a hand injury suffered when he hit a glass-enclosed fire extinguisher after Monday's loss in Miami. His effectiveness is uncertain, but his presence could help the Knicks and keep some of the defensive attention away from Anthony.

But Anthony, who is averaging only 21 points and shooting 22-for-64, will remain the focal point for the Heat's defense and the blame for another first-round exit.

"I try not to put pressure on myself and go out and play like that," Anthony said. "Do I want to win? Hell, yeah, I want to win. It's tough out there. There's no excuses, no complaints, despite injuries and things like that. I've never made an excuse about that. We just got to try and win games. [Sunday] is a big game that we can go get."

The Knicks have lost an NBA-record 13 consecutive playoff games. Their last win was April 29, 2001, in Toronto. Their last win at the Garden was three days earlier.

Anthony, who has won the first round once in eight postseason appearances -- and given that no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series, it likely will become once in nine soon -- hasn't been with the Knicks for all of those 13 losses but has been a part of more than half.

There have been extenuating circumstances, including injuries to key players last year against Boston (Chauncey Billups, Stoudemire) and this year. Iman Shumpert blew out his knee in Game 1, Tyson Chandler had the flu and Baron Davis has been slowed by a stiff back.

Even at full strength, it would have taken a Herculean task for the Knicks to beat the Heat, which seems to be on a mission to return to the NBA Finals and win this time. The Knicks' mission, on the other hand, is to win one game.

"[It] is a must win for us or we go home," Anthony said. "If we're ready to go home, we might as well call it a game. I don't think guys are ready to go home. I think guys are still confident about going in and trying to get a win."

The Knicks fought off injuries, a bad start and a coaching change to go 18-6 under Woodson and finish 36-30 for their best winning percentage since 2000-01. But they haven't been able to handle the Heat. Miami is 6-0 against the Knicks this season, and five of the wins have been by double digits.

Now they're trying to avoid a seventh straight loss to the Heat. "It won't sit well," said Chandler, who helped the Mavericks beat the Heat in the NBA Finals last year. "Whenever you get swept, it's embarrassing, because you come in and you weren't able to get a game. I definitely don't want to go out like that.

"We had great expectations for this team this year. The toughest thing would be just to make it to the playoffs and get swept. We have to make sure we stand up and have pride, especially on our home floor."

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