Carmelo Anthony insists the New York Knicks are keeping their heads up during a four-game losing streak. After a skid that's only half that long, the Detroit Pistons somehow sound more fatalistic.
A look at their upcoming schedule might make the Knicks a bit more despondent, though, with Tuesday night's home date with the Pistons serving as perhaps their best chance to keep their rough patch from spiraling out of control.
New York has been vastly improved from last season's 17-win disaster, but there have been signs of a lengthy backslide in the past five weeks. The Knicks (14-18) are currently on their third four-game skid in that stretch, and they're averaging just 93.0 points in this one after a four-game winning streak in which they never scored less than 107.
They shot 37.1 percent in Sunday's 100-91 loss at Boston, the second time on their three-game road trip they shot under 40. New York has connected on just 27.9 percent of its 3s in the past six games.
''It's more stress than anything because you're praying (for them) to go in, you're hoping them to go in,'' said Anthony, the offensive outlier at 53.3 percent in his last four. ''It's not confident when you're shooting the ball.''
Kristaps Porzingis is shooting 31.8 percent in his last 10, but Anthony isn't going to let the rookie or anyone else feel sorry for themselves.
“We have a positive attitude, we've just gotta figure out a way to win basketball games,” Anthony said. “The attitude is not going anywhere. I won't allow that.”
It could be tough to stay that optimistic. The Pistons (17-14) are New York's sixth opponent in a stretch of 11 straight against above .500 teams, and Chicago, Miami, San Antonio and two games with Atlanta await.
Detroit has its own issues to sort out, though. It has followed a 5-1 stretch with losses to Atlanta and Boston, and slow starts have hurt the Pistons. They trailed by 15 at the half against the Hawks, then committed 13 first-half turnovers while digging themselves an eight-point deficit late in the second quarter Saturday against the Celtics.
''Right now, our starters aren't giving us a thing, and our bench is having to try to save us,'' coach Stan Van Gundy told the team's official website. ''We've had awful starts in the last three games, and (Saturday) we had an awful third quarter. They had yesterday off, but they played like they practiced for 6 1/2 hours.''
A lack of ball movement has been a problem. The Pistons, already assisting on a league-low 48.2 percent of their field goals, have seen that drop to 45.2 in their past six games.
“When the ball doesn't move and there's no crispness and there's no energy, that's what ends up happening,” Van Gundy said. “It's just all products of the same thing.”
Both Van Gundy and Andre Drummond think Detroit's defense must improve. The Pistons are 10-4 when holding their opponent to 45 percent shooting or worse, but they're allowing 104.3 points per 100 possessions in their last six after that number was at 99.1 through 25 games.
“I feel like we've lost our identity a little bit,” Drummond said. “Now that our shots are falling a little bit more, we've taken a step back defensively and it starts with me. I feel like I haven't been staying on the guys about different things defensively and I've got to be better, as well, being the anchor.”
Being stingy hasn't been a problem against the Knicks. Detroit has won four of five in the series – the last three without Anthony – while holding New York to 89.2 regulation points per game.