GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Knicks had another physical practice on Tuesday -- "We got after it," Tyson Chandler said -- but they didn't only play that way to regain the hard-nosed defense they had earlier in the season.
The recent tenacity in practices has been to help the Knicks adjust offensively for how teams are going to defend them.
Speaking with ESPNNewYork.com after practice, Carmelo Anthony said he "absolutely" expects more aggressive D from opponents at this point in the season.
"Everybody is just going to fine-tune things, especially with us," he said. "They're going to try to take away the 3, try to double team me more. I don't know how much more they can double team me. They just try to make it difficult, try to make other guys beat us."
Another reason behind the extra toughness in practice lately has been to boost the Knicks' attacking in half-court sets, rather than settling too much for outside shots. Anthony admitted teams know they like the 3-point shot -- "That's a no-brainer," he said -- and spoke of the importance for his guys to do a better job of getting to the foul line. In the past four games, they have improved dramatically in that category, averaging 24 makes on 31.5 attempts, compared to around 15 makes on 20 attempts per game in previous weeks.
"Sometimes, as shooters, we feel like if we don't make the first one, we're going to make the next one," Melo said. "I think sometimes that's our mindset in the game and it comes back to bite us sometimes. I think the last couple of games, we've just been trying to get to the free throw line. And they've been calling (fouls), so that's the most important thing. When we're aggressive and they call it, it makes the game that much easier for us."
Anthony said it's typical for teams to adjust in phases during the season.
"My approach is you have a preseason approach, you have your first-half-of-the season approach, you have your All-Star-break approach and then you have your second-half approach," he said. "I think right now is really when you start fine-tuning things and getting after it. There's no turning back from here. At the beginning of the season, you can say, 'It's still early in the season, it's still early in the season.' Now, it's just time to buckle down."
One way Anthony has evolved his game recently is capitalizing more in pick and rolls down the stretch in games. While Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni and J.R. Smith mostly run the play during games, Melo tends to grab the reins in the fourth quarter to put even more pressure on defenses in already tense moments and give his team different scoring looks.
"I just take advantage of (pick and rolls)," he said. "I let Ray do his thing up there in the first three quarters, and when it's time for me to come off the pick and roll and create matchups, that's when I do it."
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