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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

Carmelo Anthony needs to step up in the fourth quarter

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony sits on the bench

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony sits on the bench during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers. (Nov. 25, 2013) Credit: AP

The reasons the Knicks are 3-12 are plenty and have been well documented. But one thing noticeably different about this team from the last several is Carmelo Anthony isn't taking over fourth quarters like he once did.

Anthony is doing a good job passing out of the double-teams, trying to get his teammates involved and rebounding harder in the absence of Tyson Chandler. But the way the Knicks are constituted and with their shots often missing the mark, they need Anthony to rescue them and he hasn't been able to do it yet this season.

In Friday's two point loss in Denver, Anthony was 1-for-4 in the fourth quarter. He shot an airball on a turnaround baseline jumper over the shorter Randy Foye that would have tied the game with 2.6 seconds left.

It was the fourth time Anthony didn't covert a potential tying or game-winning shot in the closing seconds thus far.

He missed two shots late, including the likely game-winner in the Knicks' one-point loss at Chicago on Halloween. Anthony misfired on a three against Houston that would have tied the game with 30.9 seconds left. The Knicks lost by three.

In their overtime loss to Indiana, Anthony didn't connect on a shot in the lane that would have won it in regulation. There was contact from Paul George on that play, but there was no call.

After the Denver game, Anthony stood up and said the loss was on him, that he "didn't get it done." At least Anthony took responsibility at the end of a trip when earlier it certainly appeared some teammates were placing the blame on him for their troubles.

When Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert griped about a lack of ball movement, antennas everywhere went up that they were referring to Anthony. At times, that is a legitimate complaint. But it wasn't in that case.

The truth is the Knicks need to play better defense, they need better ball movement and they're going to need Anthony to be closer to who he once was.

Doc's orders

Ex-Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who knows about having an older team, believes you win more with veterans than younger players because stats or individual acclaim aren't as important.

"The veteran groups they tend to have a sense of urgency of the now because they know the now is going to end soon," said Rivers, the Clippers coach.

Mike Woodson can relate after last season when Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace and Kurt Thomas -- all of whom are retired or unsigned -- helped the Knicks to 54 wins. Anthony said that team had "a special bond." This year's Knicks lack leadership and have lost eight straight.

The Knicks essentially ended Rivers' Celtics run when they bounced Boston out of the first round of the playoffs last year. The Knicks led 3-0 and won in six. Rivers said the longer series affected the Knicks when they faced Indiana.

"I don't think that helped them at all," Rivers said.

Remember, Anthony re-aggravated his left shoulder in Game 5 against Boston.

Get to the point

The Knicks' lack of a dynamic, top-flight point guard was on display on their 0-4 trip. They faced the NBA's best point guard -- Chris Paul -- two rising stars -- John Wall and Damian Lillard -- and quick, underrated Ty Lawson. Each led or tied for team-high scoring honors in the four games.

Wall is finally healthy and has improved his shot and decision making with the Wizards. He had at least 30 points in three straight games for the first time and ranks second in assists (8.8).

Lillard, the reigning Rookie of the Year, has helped the Blazers to a surprising 13-2 start

"Lillard's one of the best guards I think in this league," Anthony said. "He just knows the game so well at a young age. You really don't find that in the league these days."

Lawson is tough to contain, and not surprisingly showed it against the Knicks.

Forgiving LeBron?

LeBron James was persona non grata when he left Cleveland for Miami in 2010, but the fans have begun a "Come Home LeBron" campaign to try and bring the Akron native back.

Flattering, but James' decision will be solely based on where he can win more championships. That makes the Heat the frontrunners to keep James if he opts out this summer. The Lakers, with Kobe Bryant locked up for two more years, could be in the mix.

Whatever team James goes to immediately improves markedly. James and Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving could be a good match and that pairing might be the best way to keep the young guard in Cleveland. Irving hasn't played as well this season and at times has looked disengaged on the court -- similar to James at the end of his Cleveland stay.

Kobe's deal

Media and fans who criticized the Lakers for giving Bryant a two-year, $48.5 million extension missed the boat.

Yes, he'll be 37 when his contract is up and he's coming back from a ruptured Achilles -- but he's Kobe. He's the NBA's most driven player and its greatest competitor and winner since Michael Jordan retired.

Bryant also is a great free-agent recruiter. Anthony, James, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng and the rest of the potential 2014 class of free agents would pick up the phone if Bryant calls in July. And Bryant will make calls. He wants to add to his five rings.

GM Mitch Kupchak said the Lakers have "substantial flexibility." They could have depending on other moves they make. They can sign a max player, as Bryant said on Twitter after hearing all the criticisms.

Bryant tweeted: "Lakers have max cap space and then some #mitchissharp #bussfamsharp #lakers."


-- This season's first Knicks-Nets' game Thursday in Brooklyn is shaping up to be a battle for fourth place in the Atlantic. So much for preseason expectations.

-- Wizards big man Nene scored 30 points for the first time in his 12-year career Tuesday against the Lakers. "I feel like wine," the 31-year-old Nene said. "You get old. You get better."

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