When the season began, few expected the New York Knicks' biggest problem to be offense.
Yet the Knicks visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night looking to avoid their worst losing streak of the Carmelo Anthony era, largely because of their inability to put the ball in the basket.
Though Anthony ranks second in the NBA at 26.5 points per game, the team as a whole has taken a major dip. New York ranks 25th in the league with 93.2 points per game, a 6.8 drop from last season, and has averaged 89.0 in regulation over its last five.
The Knicks have shot 41.5 percent from the field during this losing streak, which matches their longest since an eight-game skid Feb. 5-23, 2010 - a year before Anthony's arrival.
Following the latest defeat, 102-91 at Portland on Monday, Anthony admitted his frustration is at an "all-time high."
"We get stagnant at times," said Anthony, who had 34 points and 15 rebounds. "We want to play, then we don't want to play. We just aren't putting a full 48 minutes together, offensively, defensively, we just aren't doing it."
The Knicks (3-10) need improved production from the rest of their roster besides Anthony. Reigning Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith has seen his scoring drop from 18.1 points per game to 12.4 this season. Raymond Felton is shooting a career-worst 37.6 percent from the field, including 7 of 34 on 3-point attempts, and could return Wednesday after missing four games with a hip injury.
New York is among the Eastern Conference leaders in 3-pointers attempted (327) but has made just 33.0 percent, compared to 37.6 last season.
"When you lose six in a row, you keep talking about effort," said Smith, at 29.6 percent from 3-point range. "You can't coach effort, you can't teach effort, that's just the game. You have to come out and play hard. If we don't come out and play hard, we're going to keep losing."
Now the Knicks must outscore a Los Angeles team which ranks second in the NBA at 107.9 points per game and is shooting 48.1 percent from the field - a mark the Knicks haven't reached since the season opener. Chris Paul leads the NBA in assists by a wide margin, and five regulars average double figures in scoring.
Los Angeles (10-5) is coming off its most dominant win of the season, 121-82 over Chicago on Sunday. All 12 active players for the Clippers scored, led by 21 points from Jared Dudley. Paul added 16 points and 17 assists for his 14th double-double, and Blake Griffin notched his eighth straight with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Unlike the Knicks, the biggest issues for the Clippers have been on the defensive end. Opponents average 103.3 points on Los Angeles, though coach Doc Rivers has seen his group getting better.
"We are improving. It's clear," Rivers told the team's website. "I thought throughout the Chicago game everybody was in the right spots. We've had unbelievable quarters of defense, so we're progressing and I'm happy about that. I want us to get there but I know it will take time."
The Clippers have allowed an average of 96.8 points on 42.6 percent shooting in the last four games.
"The goal at the end of the night is you want to keep a team under 100," Dudley said. "We know we can score. We know at times our defense is going to have to pick up. Letting teams score 105, 107, and having our offense win is setting us up for failure later on."
Los Angeles held the Knicks below 90 points in both meetings last season - Smith shot 5 for 29 - and won each by double digits. Paul averaged 22.5 points.