Memphis (37-31) at New York (34-32)

By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN, STATS Senior Writer Wednesday, Mar 16, 2011 Tipoff: 7:30 pm EDT Thu Mar 17, 2011

Carmelo Anthony(notes) hit his first game-winning shot for the New York Knicks last week against the Memphis Grizzlies. That game, however, marked the start of some major defensive struggles for New York.

The Knicks have lost three straight since that victory heading into Thursday night’s rematch with the Grizzlies at Madison Square Garden.

Anthony made a 19-foot jumper over Tony Allen(notes) with 0.5 seconds left to lift New York (34-32) to a 110-108 victory at Memphis (37-31) last Wednesday. The All-Star forward scored 31 points as the Knicks blew a 17-point lead before holding on.

The victory may have masked a poor defensive effort, with the Grizzlies shooting 53.7 percent and outscoring the Knicks 33-4 at the foul line. New York has now allowed four straight opponents to shoot over 50 percent for the first time since the final four games of last season.

The Knicks let Indiana shoot 52.3 percent Tuesday in their second loss in three days to the Pacers, 119-117.

New York has allowed an average of 117.3 points during its three-game skid.

“We know we got to get it going, some kind of way,” forward Shawne Williams(notes) said. “I feel like we all got to take a good look in the mirror and redefine ourselves. We got to take more pride in defense.”

However, the Knicks did rally from a 15-point deficit to take a late lead Tuesday after losing its previous two games by an average of 15.5 points.

“I thought the effort was better for us tonight than the last two losses that we had,” point guard Chauncey Billups(notes) said. “So it’s a process, it’s a process. We just have to get over that hump.”

The Knicks are in a tight race with Philadelphia for the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, although a playoff spot appears secure. That’s not the case for Memphis despite its better record.

The Grizzlies are in eighth place in the Western Conference as they try to hold off Phoenix, Utah and Houston for a postseason berth. Memphis avoided a third straight loss with Monday’s 105-82 rout of the Clippers.

“As you’re battling down the stretch here, you don’t want four- or five-game losing streaks,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “I thought our defense was solid in the early part of the game.”

Memphis led by as many as 31 points and bounced back from its worst loss, 118-85 at Miami on Saturday.

“I thought we did a great job of playing with energy and coming out here and just competing,” guard Greivis Vasquez(notes) said. “We got this win and we needed it since we lost against Miami the way we lost.”

Zach Randolph(notes) had 30 points and 12 rebounds in the victory, and he’s excelled against the Knicks since they traded him to the Clippers early in 2008-09. He’s averaged 26.0 points and 13.6 rebounds in his last five games against New York.

The power forward should match up at times against Amare Stoudemire(notes), who is averaging 29.2 points over his last seven games. Stoudemire had 26 points in last week’s win over Memphis.

Billups did not play in that game due to a bruised left thigh but has started the last two, missing all 11 of his 3-point attempts.

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Thursday, Mar 17