Reeling Knicks lose Chandler, third straight

NEW YORK -- Here's how Mike Woodson summed up the Knicks just minutes after their loss to the lowly Bobcats on Tuesday:

"Our defense, it stinks right now … We got to get it fixed. In order for us to stay in the race you’re going to have to defend and rebound the ball."

To stay in the race, the Knicks need a healthy Tyson Chandler.

And that's a luxury they may not have right now.

Chandler suffered what appeared to be a right knee injury on Tuesday in a first-quarter collision with Bobcats guard Kemba Walker.

X-rays on Chandler were inconclusive. He will undergo further tests on Wednesday.

With the Knicks at 1-3 and already struggling on the defensive end, the timing of Chandler's injury could have a dire impact on the team.

"I just hope and pray that he's fine, that he's alright," Carmelo Anthony said.

With Chandler on the bench Tuesday, the Knicks were out rebounded 43-27. Charlotte had a 14-3 edge on the offensive glass in the final three quarters.

"He’s a big piece of what we do," Woodson said of Chandler. "We just have to wait until [Wednesday] morning to see what the diagnosis is. I don’t know right now."

In the Knicks' first two games, Chandler reminded the rest of the NBA why he was voted Defensive Player of the Year in 2011-12.

The 7-footer grabbed 25 rebounds and helped limit Milwaukee and Chicago to a combined 41 percent shooting in those games.

In 106 minutes with Chandler on the court, the Knicks had allowed 92.2 points per 100 possessions. With Chandler off the floor, that number jumps to 105.6 points allowed per 100 possessions.

"He's our anchor down," Anthony said.

So what happens if Chandler has to miss significant time?

The picture then becomes a bit murky for the Knicks. They can play Andrea Bargnani at center, but the 7-footer would severely compromise New York's interior defense. They can turn to Cole Aldrich, but the former lottery pick is unproven and didn't do much to inspire confidence among coaches in the preseason.

The other option would be to scrap the Kenyon Martin/Amar'e Stoudemire platoon and start Martin at center. Martin started in place of Chandler late last season when the 31-year-old went down with a neck injury. The Knicks reeled off 13 straight wins in Chandler's absence. But this is a different team with an underdeveloped chemistry.

And Martin may not be the same physically as he was last March. The Knicks have tried to limit his minutes to 10 per game due to lingering pain from an ankle injury he suffered in April. They've also tried to alternate him with Stoudemire on a game-to-game basis.

Woodson was asked late Tuesday if he'd think about scrapping the Martin-Stoudemire platoon in light of Chandler's injury.

He sighed, offered a half-smile and said, "I've got a lot to think about right now."

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