NEW YORK -- Less than a week ago, the Knicks were 8-6 and riding high after going into Oklahoma City and Houston and coming away with wins.
That seems like ancient history now after New York dropped its third straight game, falling to the Miami Heat, 97-78, at Madison Square Garden.
On Sunday, the 8-9 Knicks will face a Rockets team that they beat last Saturday. The Rockets needed 50 points from James Harden on Friday night to keep the Sixers winless with a 116-114 victory in Houston.
"This should be a must win for us coming in on Sunday," said Carmelo Anthony, who did not score a point after putting up 11 points in the first quarter. "We can't worry about Harden right now, we got our own thing to worry about. I'm not worried about it, we shouldn't be worried about it. We just gotta do a collective effort to stop him."
In playing perhaps the best defensive game of the season, the Heat used a collective effort to contain Anthony on a night when super-rookie Kristaps Porzingis was saddled with foul trouble and only managed 11 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes.
Gerald Green and Justise Winslow helped keep Anthony scoreless after the first period and held him to 4-for-13 shooting on the night.
"I respect Melo," said Green, who scored a game-high 25 points while torching Anthony on the offensive end. "For me to go against a player like that, you have to take on the challenge. You really cannot stop a guy like that....you hope to contain him."
"You have to give Gerald and Justise a lot of credit," said Dwyane Wade, who went for 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. "They kept fighting him. He is an unbelievable scorer. You have to understand his tendencies and hope for the best."
Even Anthony conceded that the 6-foot-7 Winslow, one of three one-and-dones out of Duke and a player the Knicks considered drafting, can cause problems defensively.
"Justise is a good player," he said. "I always liked Justise, I always thought he was a tough guy. Good defender, strong, can play multiple positions."
The 7-foot-3 Porzingis, meanwhile, was bothered by foul trouble and also was not a major factor with Chris Bosh continuing to play good defense on him following Miami's win at home on Monday. He scored on an alley-oop dunk that stoked the crowd.
"It is frustrating," Porzingis said. "I want to be on the floor and help the team all the time. In some ways I let my team down. I know there are guys that will step up but I want to be there when my team needs me. I have to be smarter with the fouls."
After the Knicks' bench struggled to score just 22 total points in the previous two games, they actually outscored the starters, 46-32. All seven Knick reserves who got in the game scored, led by Kevin Seraphin's 10 points and Derrick Williams' nine. Williams played 17 minutes off the bench after playing a combined four minutes in the last two games.
The Knicks were in it until the half, when they trailed 50-49, but were then blown out after intermission.
"We fell apart in the second half, for whatever reason," Anthony said. "We couldn't get it back and they took off."
Said Knicks coach Derek Fisher: "We are playing a team that has some championship DNA and you knew the championship pedigree was coming out tonight."
The Knicks have no championship DNA and are still finding their way with a lot of new pieces.
Now comes Harden off a 50-point night and Anthony is already calling this game a must-win before the calendar turns to December.