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Knicks still looking for the right combination

Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks celebrates

Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks celebrates his basket in the first half of a preseason exhibition game against Paschoalotto Bauru at Madison Square Garden on October 7, 2015 in New York City. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Elsa

Carmelo Anthony was thankful for the Knicks' record on Thanksgiving. He might have had more to appreciate, though, if the bench had shot better in the last two games.

The Knicks are an unexpected 8-8 and "sitting in a good spot right now," according to Anthony, but they easily could have nine or 10 wins if they had gotten better play and production from their bench on their recently concluded trip. Their subs shot 8-for-47 and were outscored 71-22 in the last two games, both losses.

It was a stark difference from earlier in the season, when the Knicks could rely on big output or plays from their subs. They outscored their opponents' second unit in 10 of the first 14 games and were plus-120 in bench points before the losses in Miami and Orlando.

Langston Galloway, Lance Thomas, Kevin Seraphin, Derrick Williams, Jerian Grant, Kyle O'Quinn and Lou Amundson had strong performances earlier but have tailed off lately.

"I'm still going to rely on them," Anthony said. "I think it's a just a matter of guys being confident, being a little more confident when they get in the game. You don't know who's going to play on any given night. I think guys are thinking about that a little bit too much instead of focusing on when they do get in the game giving productive minutes."

Part of the problem is that the Knicks' bench is filled with mostly unproven young players or veterans who weren't consistent rotation players on their previous teams. Now the Knicks, who will host the Heat Friday night, are asking them to play big minutes and to consistently produce.

Coach Derek Fisher has to shoulder some blame because he hasn't settled on a rotation, playing 12 or 13 guys on some nights. It's been hard for them to get any continuity together.

"I think the rotation happens that night," Fisher said of his planning. "You can't decide before the game starts exactly what you're going to do. Too many things happen through the course of the game. Right now we're just continuing to try and find guys that we know consistently are going to give us what we need. That's going to be different every night.

"Rotations could change. It could stay the same. Eventually it's about us continuing to find ways to win."

Galloway, the Knicks' most reliable reserve, has had a big drop-off. He was leading the league in three-point shooting, but in the last two games, he's shot 1-for-14 overall and 0-for-7 from three-point range and has scored two points.

Williams got off to a great start with 24 points in the Knicks' season-opening win at Milwaukee, but he's totaled 29 points in the last nine games as his minutes have continued to decrease.

In his last eight games, he played fewer than eight minutes five times. He didn't play at all in Orlando on a night when the Knicks could have used some offense.

"I can't really control that," Williams said. "That's up to the coaching staff. But at the same time, it does get frustrating when I know I can help."

Grant, a rookie point guard, hasn't scored in the past three games and didn't play in the second half of Wednesday night's loss in Orlando.

"Earlier in the season, I felt like I knew my role," Grant said. "I knew who I was going to be out there with at certain times. That's changing, and I feel like I'm still adjusting to it."

The starters have played much better lately, particularly Jose Calderon.

"We need everybody," Calderon said. "It doesn't matter who plays with who. We're on a team. We have 14 guys who can play basketball. We know what we have to do out there. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how minutes you play before today with somebody or which positions -- it's just about going out there and do your job the best you can."

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