NEW YORK — The New York Knicks return to Madison Square Garden to face the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday having lost three of their four road games, falling to a season-worst 15 games under.500 at 26-41.
The Pacers (34-32), in sixth place in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, have held their opponents under 100 points in seven of their nine games since the All-Star break after Sunday’s 102-98 win over the Miami Heat.
The Knicks lead the series this season, 2-1.
Carmelo Anthony has been a bright spot in a dismal season for the Knicks, who had expectations of ending a three-year playoff drought when they acquired Derrick Rose in a trade and signed free agent Joakim Noah, both from Chicago. Rose has performed well, but Noah has battled injuries and is likely lost for the season after suffering a hamstring injury in early February.
But Anthony has been the mainstay in this chaotic season. He reached 10,000 points in a Knicks uniform in Sunday’s loss to the rival Brooklyn Nets, becoming the third player in NBA history to achieve that mark for two franchises (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Elvin Hayes). Anthony also achieved that milestone with the Denver Nuggets.
“It’s challenging,” Anthony said of the losing. “You try to keep it tight and keep everybody positive. That’s the challenging part, trying to keep it all together.”
Anthony’s mild-mannered teammate, Kristaps Porzingis, was philosophical about the lost season.
“It’s a tough year, everything,” he said. “There’s a quote about smooth seas. If the seas are smooth, you’re never going to become a great sailor. That’s how I always take it. It’s a tough year. I’m trying to get better so one day we can make a step forward and win big sometime.”
Small forward C.J. Miles is averaging career highs in every offensive category off the Pacers. He began season on the bench then was inserted into the starting lineup on Jan. 23 against the Knicks. He’s scored in double figures in four of the Pacers last six games.
“He’s (Miles) playing off of Paul (George), Jeff (Teague) and Myles (Turner),” said Indiana coach Nate McMillan. “A lot of times teams are double-teaming those guys and the ball is rotating to that guy in the corner. He’s (Miles) basically taking a lot of pressure from those guys, being that guy in the corner knocking down shots.
“It gives us balance when you have a guy that can knock open shots when he gets them. When you have Jeff playing with the ball and Paul playing the pick-and-roll, there’s going to be guys knocking down shots.”
Indiana has been up and down recently, failing to string together at least two straight wins since claiming six straight at the end of Jan. into early Feb.
“We have to come out and play for 48 minutes,” said McMillan. “They (Knicks) seem to play well against us. They have proven scorers in Melo (Carmelo Anthony) and Derrick (Rose). We have to match them.”