Carmelo Anthony's ongoing knee issues are putting a drain on the New York Knicks' offense.
Making matters worse, he's being outperformed by a player they gave up to obtain the All-Star's services.
In the midst of arguably the best stretch of his career, Danilo Gallinari leads the Denver Nuggets into Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon attempting to deal the sagging Knicks a season-high fifth straight loss.
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Anthony has gone 8 of 34 from the field over his last two games and shot 32.6 percent over his past six, part of a 1-8 run that's dropped New York (23-30) to 11th place in the Eastern Conference. The 31-year-old has missed three of those games due to recurring tendinitis in his surgically repaired left knee, an injury that's led to Anthony registering a career-low 42.4 field goal percentage.
“He's carrying a big load night to night,” coach Derek Fisher said. “I think he'll be fine long term. I think we just have to get through this next set of days into the break and hopefully re-evaluate him from there in terms of something that's not reoccurring.”
The Knicks have shot just 38.7 percent while averaging 93.0 points during their swoon. They struggled again with Anthony held out of Friday's 91-85 loss to Memphis, falling to 0-7 in games he's missed and 1-18 when scoring 93 or less.
“We need a guy like 'Melo who you can give him the ball and he will score, he will get to the line and he will make plays for others,” forward Kristaps Porzingis said. “I think that's what we're missing.”
Anthony is expected to play Sunday, a positive for a team that had other encouraging signs in its latest defeat. Jose Calderon had 18 points in his second game back from a groin injury and Porzingis compiled 17 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. The rookie averaged 9.0 points on 33.3 percent shooting over his previous four games.
Gallinari has often been sidetracked by injuries since being part of the package New York sent to the Nuggets in the February 2011 trade for Anthony. The Italian has been healthy and productive since returning from a sprained ankle Jan. 2, averaging 23.4 points in 18 games to help Denver (20-31) split its last 16.
Gallinari had a season-high 33 and hit all 18 of his free throws in Friday's 115-110 comeback win over injury-plagued Chicago. He's shot 89.3 percent from the line while leading the NBA in free throws made and attempted since Jan. 6.
Denver, which has topped 100 points in 10 of its last 11, had several other contributors in rallying from an 18-point deficit late in the third quarter against the Bulls. Rookies Emmanuel Mudiay and Nikola Jokic each recorded 10 points during a fourth quarter in which the Nuggets outscored Chicago 42-21, with Mudiay finishing with 22 points and sixth man Will Barton 18.
“I would categorize this win as a character win,” coach Michael Malone said. “One thing about our team, all year long we've had this resiliency, this never die, never quit mentality and that allows you to stay in a game and pull it out. You never want to get down by 18 but one thing I love about our guys is they have that fight.”
The Nuggets begin a four-game trip seeking to end a three-game skid at Madison Square Garden. Anthony had 28 points in New York's 109-93 home win last season but did not play in a 106-78 loss in Denver on March 9, 2015.