Mired in a horrible shooting funk, a game against a Phoenix Suns team that has been unable to slow down anyone lately could be what the New York Knicks need to get their offense in gear.
The Knicks try to avoid losing a fourth straight game Wednesday night when they host the Suns, who are hoping to keep their losing streak from reaching six.
Carmelo Anthony returned to New York's lineup for Monday's game against Orlando after sitting out Saturday's loss to Oklahoma City with a sprained right ankle, but his shot was again absent, as the Knicks (6-7) fell 102-93.
The four-time All-Star misfired on 18 of 27 shots, but still scored 33 thanks to a 14-of-16 effort from the foul line. Toney Douglas and Iman Shumpert each scored 12 and Amare Stoudemire added 10, but those three finished 11 for 28 from the floor (39.3 percent).
"We're not making no shots right now," Anthony said. "It seems like we can't shoot the ball in the ocean right now. Everybody. We get stops and then at the other end we can't score the basketball. I don't know what it is."
Anthony has shot 37.5 percent or less in four of his last five games, and the Knicks are averaging 89.3 points on 39.7 percent shooting during their three-game skid.
"We've just got to get out of that shooting slump," Anthony said. "We've got to start making shots and it makes it easy on the defensive end. We are playing defense but when you can't score the basketball it makes it hard.''
Phoenix (4-9), meanwhile, isn't playing much defense.
After allowing an average of 91.5 points in splitting their first eight games, the Suns are surrendering 106.0 during a five-game losing streak. In Tuesday's 118-97 loss to Chicago, they allowed opponent season highs in points and field goal percentage (53.4). The Bulls, who had 96 points through three quarters, managed to completely overwhelm Phoenix despite playing without reigning league MVP Derrick Rose (toe).
"We are not the Phoenix Suns of old. We need to slow down and guard them more closely," coach Alvin Gentry said. "We need to defend better, we need to be more physical especially on our rebounding. We also need to communicate better on our defensive rotations."
Steve Nash's play was the only bright spot for the Suns in the opener of a back-to-back. He finished with a season-high 25 points on 10 of 13 shooting and nine assists in 30 minutes as he was able to sit out the final period with Chicago cruising to victory.
The 37-year-old Nash is averaging 17.1 points on 63.0 percent shooting and 11.1 assists in eight games this month.
"Nash is one of the best," said Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni, who coached the Suns from 2003-08. "They run our offense, or we run their offense, either way you want to look at it. Maybe we'll learn how to run it."
Nash's former teammate Stoudemire is in the middle of New York's offensive woes, averaging 10.0 points on 36.4 percent shooting and 3.7 rebounds during the skid, but could be poised for a big game,
Stoudemire, who played for Phoenix from 2002-10, combined for 64 points in his first two games against his former team last season. The Knicks, who were second in the league in scoring last season at 106.5 per game, split those two games, scoring 121 in each.