Carmelo Anthony has been on a roll lately. Credit: Getty Images
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is under the microscope for many reasons, but all that matters to him is doing everything he can to get his team back into the Atlantic Division playoff race.
Anthony, who’s coming off stellar back-to-back performances that included a franchise-record 62 points against the Bobcats on Friday, said he doesn’t even focus on point tallies.
“Everything else is irrelevant to me as far as when it comes to basketball. Winning a championship is the only thing. In my mind that’s the only thing I want to accomplish, the only thing I want to achieve and I’m gonna do everything I can to get that,” Anthony said. “Winning is my motivating factor. Nothing else even motivates me anymore, just that. ... It’s my biggest and sole motivation for the remainder of this year, my career.”
He reflected on the fact that he is still ringless, adding, “I think everybody thinks that they would have a championship [by the time they’re in their 10th season, as Anthony is].”
And to that end, Anthony simply would rather focus on getting that elusive ring. But first thing’s first. He knows the Knicks are a far cry from looking like the 54-win team from a season ago. Winning the last two games is a start, said the forward.
“We needed those wins. It was a booster for our confidence,” said Anthony, adding a loss against the Celtics on Tuesday would be a setback. “Hopefully we’ll start to build something on our home court. The real focus needs to be taking things one game at a time. We’ve got one Tuesday, so let’s see if we can continue the streak.”
A three-game winning streak would actually be a big thing for the Knicks, believe it or not. New York has had a two-game winning streak on Dec. 5 and 6 and also won five-straight games from Jan. 5 to 13 — followed by a four-game losing streak — but other than those miniscule runs, there hasn’t been much of anything to celebrate. The recent two-game stretch is a start, according to head coach Mike Woodson. And while it may be modest in its length, winning on Tuesday could actually get New York one step closer to their goal.
The win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday put them a game out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The real race in the East, however, is for sixth place because whichever team finishes in that slot can avoid either the Pacers or Heat in the first round. The Pacers knocked out the Knicks in the Eastern Conference semifinals last year, so that’s a daunting task for a banged-up Knicks squad. And while the Knicks have won four of the last five matchups over the two-time defending champion Heat, they’d still be wise to avoid them.
The Knicks are 4 1/2 games out of the sixth seed right now, which is currently occupied by the Wizards. And with two winnable games coming up at home (the Celtics next and the Cavaliers on Thursday) before facing the Heat on Saturday night, the Knicks could be primed to put themselves in prime position again in the Eastern Conference race.
Woodson knows the clock is ticking on the Knicks getting back into the hunt and winning on a regular basis.
“As coaches, as players, winning consistently is hard and [staying on top in the NBA] is a short-lived life for most,” said Woodson. “I think not only Melo, but the whole team understands [the urgency]. We’re all desperately trying to win. ... We all chase it. I’ve been chasing it, too, as a head coach.”
The momentum gained recently has given a boost of confidence to the team, said Anthony, who added he thinks his teammates finally realize all hands are needed on deck.
“I think guys don’t wanna watch me out there alone playing offensively. They’re all making an effort to be more aggressive on the offensive end, which will make us that much more potent as an offense,” said Anthony. “We’ve talked a lot about not relying on me too much [because] there will be nights when I might not have it. They’ve been aggressive. ... Everybody seems to be getting it going.”
Knicks notes ...
» Anthony’s recent tear of 97 combined points is the third-highest two-game total in Knicks’ history. Hall of Fame forward Bernard King scored 103 over two games in 1984-85 and 100 points over two games in 1983-84.
» Forward Andrea Bargnani is out indefinitely with an elbow injury, but the silver lining is that it’s giving Woodson a long look at young big men Cole Aldrich and Jeremy Tyler. The underused duo was on the floor for extensive minutes during the win over the Lakers and provided a spark on both ends of the floor. It could be a boon for the team since Amar’e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin are still day-to-day with injuries. Aldrich and Tyler were on the court together late in the first quarter against the Lakers and remained mainstays in the rotation. In 21 combined minutes, they combined for nine rebounds and four blocks.
» Not even Anthony’s record-setting stretch could win him another Eastern Conference Player of the Week honor, as that was bestowed upon Hawks forward Paul Millsap.
» Of higher importance, there’s another thing that went against the All-Star forward on Monday. Idan Ravin, the personal trainer to both Anthony and J.R. Smith, is no longer with the Knicks due to philosophical differences with the coaching staff.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter@TBone8.