Before the New York Knicks departed for their five-game western road trip, coach Mike Woodson said he would be happy if his team recorded a .500 record on the jaunt.
One more loss on this trek and Woodson will not be a happy man.
The Knicks will get back to work Thursday against the Portland Trail Blazers in hopes of ending a two-game slide. The journey started with a defeat at Golden State and resumed with Wednesday's 117-94 blowout loss to Denver in Carmelo Anthony's return to the Rocky Mountains.
Drafted third overall in 2003 by the Nuggets, Anthony played in his second game since missing three in a row with a right knee injury. He scored 14 points in a little over 33 minutes against the Warriors, then had only nine points in less than 22 minutes in Wednesday's loss. Anthony left the game early in the third quarter because of the knee issue and is headed back to New York to have the knee drained.
Anthony said the knee stiffened up and he wasn't able to move as gracefully as he would have liked.
"I'm going to go get it drained, get the fluid out," Anthony said after the game. "Get to the bottom of it quick, so I can get back on the court."
Anthony, who forced a trade to the Knicks two years ago, is third in the NBA with 27.5 ppg, but hasn't been his usual dominant self since the injury.
The Knicks are already without power forward Amare Stoudemire (knee surgery) and were led by Iman Shumpert's 20 points at Denver. J.R. Smith scored 15 points off the bench and James White added 10 for New York, which has dropped three of four games and is 16-14 on the road.
Knicks center Tyson Chandler suffered a knee contusion late in the first half and did not return. Chandler is probable for Thursday's game in Portland and is averaging 10.7 points and 11.0 rebounds this season.
New York still has matchups with the Clippers and Jazz remaining on the trek and is third in the East standings, one game behind idle Indiana.
Portland is hoping to turn things around and get back into the postseason mix as it sits 3 1/2 games off the final playoff berth in the West.
The Trail Blazers have stumbled recently, losing three of four and 11 of their last 14 contests, and opened a three-game homestand with Tuesday's 102-97 loss at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. Portland put forth a valiant effort in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Grizzlies by a 39-34 margin, but it wasn't enough to prevent the team from losing two in a row.
"They are physical. They play great team defense, play great individual defense. It was a struggle to score all night," Portland coach Terry Stotts said of Memphis, which is first in the NBA in points allowed (89.4).
Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard scored 30 points on 8-of-17 shooting and went a perfect 11-for-11 from the foul line for the Trail Blazers, while All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points and 10 rebounds. Eric Maynor was the only other Blazer in double figures with 11 points off the bench.
Portland is 20-11 at the Rose Garden and will close out the homestand Saturday versus the Detroit Pistons. In injury news for the Blazers, Aldridge, who leads the team in points (20.7), is probable Thursday because of a bruised hand and migraine.
Meanwhile, Lillard leads all rookies in scoring (19.0 ppg) and assists (6.4 apg) and had 21 points, five rebounds and six assists in a 105-100 victory over the Knicks on Jan. 1 at Madison Square Garden. Anthony scored 45 points, but will not be around for revenge. Smith netted 28 points in that one for New York, which has dropped 10 of the last 15 meetings with the Blazers.
The Blazers are 9-2 in the past 11 at home versus the Knicks and haven't swept a season series with them since 2008-09 (2-0).