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Knicks struggling through brutal stretch

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- According to the college basketball calendar, March Madness starts on Thursday. But for the New York Knicks, it started on March 1.

New York is in the midst of a brutal schedule this month. They play six back-to-backs in March and three stretches of four games in five nights. In all, they have 18 games in 30 days.

"More than one every two days, that's pretty tough," team president Donnie Walsh said on Wednesday.

Halfway through, they're not handing it very well.

The Knicks are 4-5 in March. They've lost three straight, including two in a row to the Indiana Pacers, which came into Madison Square Garden on Sunday with a six-game losing streak.

"It's been tough and the biggest thing is no practice time," Mike D'Antoni said on Wednesday after the Knicks' sixth practice of the month.

D'Antoni said the Knicks emphasized defense on Wednesday, just as they had during their past two practices.

But the results have yet to show up on the court.

The Knicks let the Pacers hit six of their final eight shots on Tuesday night, including Danny Granger's game-winning jumper with 0.3 seconds to play. It was the fifth straight game they've allowed an opponent to shoot 50 percent.

"I think we're all frustrated," D'Antoni said. "A lot of it's schemes, a lot of it's staying on the same page, a lot of it's not panicking. [Tuesday] night wasn't good enough [and it] hasn't been good enough yet."

Carmelo Anthony took a not-so-veiled shot at the coaching staff on Tuesday after Tyler Hansbrough torched the Knicks for 30 points. Hansbrough had 59 points in two games against New York, hitting 65 percent of his shots.

"We all know what he was capable of doing. I don't think we made adjustments to him at the top of the key," Anthony told reporters in Indianapolis. "Especially after the game he had in the Garden, I would think we would make some adjustments after that."

On Wednesday, Anthony suggested that the Knicks were having trouble learning the team's multiple defensive schemes.

"I think [we should] just come with a scheme or a couple schemes that we're going to just stick with and we're going to get better at," Anthony said. "Right now, it's one game we come in with one scheme and another game we come in with a different scheme. I think it's a little bit confusing at times."

New York has allowed its opponent to score at least 108 points seven times this month. They are 2-5 in those games. Opponents are making 47.2 percent of their shots against New York -- the fifth highest percentage in the league. The Knicks are giving up 1.26 points per shot, which is tied for the fourth-worst total among 30 NBA teams.

"Unfortunately we're putting together a team after the trading deadline, so you're going to be behind in those areas," Walsh said. "Teams, by now, know what they want to do on both ends of the floor and you're going to have a tough time making that up in a quick amount of time."

It doesn't get much easier for the Knicks the rest of this month. Thursday's home game against the Grizzlies is the beginning of the team's third and final four-games-in-five-nights stanza in March.

The fourth game of that stretch is at home against Boston on Monday.

And they still have to face the Magic twice before the end of the month. The March 23 home game against the Magic was added after Orlando's Nov. 2 visit to the Garden was postponed due to an asbestos scare.

"It is what it is," Anthony said of the schedule.

With Tuesday's loss, the Knicks fell to 6-6 since they traded for the former Nuggets star. New York was two games above .500 before they pulled the trigger on the three-team, 13-player deal.

"I think everybody on the team knew what kind of process this was going to be," Anthony said of the Knicks' new players getting acclimated to one another. "It's a tough one; nobody said it was going to be easy."

Especially not during March Madness.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.