A surprising Knicks loss offends the Garden, suggests a need for layup drills

Carmelo Anthony is blocked by Amir Johnson. (NBA.com)
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It was almost mesmerizing, how bad the Knicks were from in the paint in their 92-88 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.

The fans weren't amused, though.

Boos rained down from the stands as the Knicks, after going out to a 41-30 lead against a mediocre Raptors team, fell behind and then missed a series of point-blank shots that would have brought them closer.

The Knicks shot 16-for-42 in the paint, an astonishingly low 38 percent on what are supposed to be the game's highest percentage shots.

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Carmelo Anthony missed nine shots four feet from the basket or closer. He missed a layup with 2:40 left in the game which would have cut the Toronto lead to one.

"We had chances," a disappointed Mike Woodson said at his postgame press conference. "We missed a ton of layups at the rim. It's probably one of the worst games that Melo's played all year. He hasn't had very many games like that."

Woodson was right. Anthony's 5-for-24 effort represented the lowest shooting percentage of his season. He'd suffered numbness in his shooting arm following a first-quarter collision, and it clearly affected him for the duration of the game.

Amar'e Stoudemire, who has been making shots at a rate that would place him among the league leaders had he played enough this season, shot 4-for-13, including eight missed shots from four feet out or closer. No reason to think Stoudemire wasn't 100 percent. He simply had a poor game.

And really, it is those two outliers that made the difference in this four-point loss. Because the Knicks did everything else they should have done to win this game.

They held the Raptors' best player, Rudy Gay, to a 4-for-21 shooting performance. Overall, the Raptors shot just 42 percent. Only reserve Alan Anderson provided any real scoring punch, with 26 off the bench, but J.R. Smith matched him with 26 for the Knicks.

The Knicks crushed the Raptors on the boards, outrebounding them 52-35. They took good care of the basketball, turning it over just 11 times.

Essentially, the corrections the Knicks need to make from a performance like this are: Carmelo Anthony needs to fix his arm, and the team as a whole needs to fix its short game.

"We haven't had many nights when we're missing almost point-blank layups," an almost amused Woodson said, marveling at the oddity of it. "I can see us missing jump shots, threes and things of that nature. But things around the bucket, you've just got to finish."

Anthony, dressed in a black hooded sweatshirt and baseball cap emblazoned with a big apple, he seemed ready to acknowledge his injury, let it heal, and move on. The All-Star Game is Sunday, and Anthony wouldn't commit to playing in it, which is wise: only injury (or the trash talk of Kevin Garnett) has managed to limit Anthony to anything like Wednesday night's performance all season.

"I'm not gonna force it," Anthony said of appearing in the game on Sunday. "Definitely not gonna force it." 

Still, the idea of shooting less never entered Anthony's mind.

"You're not really thinking about it," Anthony said of a decision to pull back on his typical offensive game.

He smiled and continued, "You'd have to be a shooter to realize. Shots that normally go in don't go in. Then you think the next one will go in, then the one after that will go in. It just wasn't my night."

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Sandy Alderson sort of talked up the Mets on W.F.A.N.

YANKEES

The Yankee bullpen just got stronger, with middle reliever Shawn Kelley coming over Wednesday in a trade with the Seattle Mariners.

NETS

In a game without much defense, the Nets won again, beating a short-handed Denver Nuggets team Wednesday, 119-108.

RED BULLS

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