As disappointing as their start has been, the New York Knicks now must get on track without one of their top players.
Minus injured center Tyson Chandler, the visiting Knicks look to avoid a fourth straight loss Friday night and second in four days to a surprising Charlotte Bobcats team that will be trying for a third consecutive victory but won't have coach Steve Clifford on the sideline.
The Bobcats announced hours before this game that Clifford will need a procedure to have two stents placed in his heart after he went to the hospital Thursday night because he was suffering from chest pains.
Patrick Ewing will serve as Charlotte's coach Friday against his former team. Ewing, the Bobcats' associate head coach, said he's "a little nervous" about coaching his first game.
Ewing said, "It's ironic that my first chance to be a head coach will be against a team I played with for 15 years."
After opening with a 90-83 win over Milwaukee, New York (1-3) has dropped three in a row by a total of 15 points. Though there's obvious frustration, the Knicks won't panic amid their worst start since going 1-9 in 2009-10.
"We're just not getting it done right now, no excuses," said star Carmelo Anthony, averaging 23.8 points but shooting 37.1 percent. "There's no need to pinpoint this or pinpoint that. We're just not getting it done.
"The good thing is that it's early. We've just got to figure this out. We've got to remain positive."
New York must do so without Chandler for a span of four-to-six weeks after he broke a bone in his right leg during Tuesday's 102-97 home loss to Charlotte (3-2). Known for his strong defense and rebounding, the 7-foot-1 Chandler was a first-time All-Star last season as he averaged double figures in scoring for the third straight year.
"We miss him big time, he's our anchor down there," Anthony said of the 2011-12 Defensive Player of the Year. "We're going to have some challenges ahead of us. We're going to have to step up to those challenges."
Playing all but six minutes without Chandler on Tuesday, the Knicks were outrebounded 51-33 by the Bobcats and the 16 offensive boards they allowed were a season high.
Veteran forward Kenyon Martin is likely to see increased minutes during Chandler's absence, as could Amare Stoudemire if healthy enough. Anthony is averaging 9.5 rebounds and could help pick up the slack in that area.
Anthony had only five boards Tuesday and shot 10 of 28 from the field, as his 32 points weren't enough to get New York out of a 13-point third-quarter deficit.
The reigning Atlantic Division champions, who now hope to avoid matching their longest losing streak from all of last season, haven't dropped two games to the Bobcats in the same season since 2009-10.
That also was the last season in which Charlotte won three of its first five games. A victory Friday would give the Bobcats the best six-game start in their 10-year history and match their longest win streak of the previous two seasons, when they had a combined 28-120 record.
Kemba Walker overcame a shoulder injury to score 25 points against the Knicks on Tuesday. Though an MRI showed no damage, Walker finished with five points on 2-of-13 shooting Wednesday but had seven assists in 38 minutes of a 92-90 win over Toronto.
Born in the Bronx, Walker has averaged 22.3 points and 9.5 assists in the last four games versus New York.
Gerald Henderson scored 23 on Wednesday as Charlotte shot a season-best 49.3 percent to win their fifth straight home game, dating to last season.
The Bobcats are allowing 94.4 points per game to rank among the league leaders.
Bobcats head coach Steve Clifford was hospitalized yesterday and will not coach tonight against the Knicks. That means Patrick Ewing will make his coaching debut against the team he spent 15 of his 17 seasons with.