Few teams have been more disappointing than the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls. The rough start could have much more dire consequences for the Knicks, however, with coach Mike Woodson's job possibly hanging in the balance.
New York will try to end a six-game skid against Chicago on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks figured to be an Eastern Conference contender again after a second-place finish in 2012-13, while the Bulls looked poised to improve on last season's fifth seed with Derrick Rose back in the mix.
Reality hasn't quite met up with expectations, with New York (5-15) sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic Division and Chicago (8-11) sliding down the standings, again likely without Rose for the season following another knee injury.
The Knicks lost 109-94 at Cleveland on Tuesday for their 11th defeat in 13 games. They trailed by three at halftime before being outscored 33-20 in the third quarter.
New York's 41-point home loss to Boston two days earlier, which seemed to call Woodson's job security into question, didn't seem to light any sort of fire under the Knicks.
"We've got to help him (Woodson) figure it out," Carmelo Anthony said after scoring 29 points Tuesday. "He's not going to do it by himself. We've got to help each other figure this out."
The Celtics and Cavaliers, two of the league's lesser offensive teams, combined to shoot 55.5 percent against New York -- 52.3 from 3-point range.
The Knicks' five free-throw attempts against the Cavaliers matched the second-lowest total in the league this season.
"I don't have the answer to what we have to do," Anthony said. "You can't coach or you can't teach energy. The losing is becoming unacceptable. Hopefully, everybody feels like that. I can't be the only one who is feeling like that."
New York fell 82-81 at Chicago on Oct. 31 with Rose hitting the go-ahead jumper with six seconds left. The Knicks shot 36.0 percent and have been held to 40.8 percent shooting during a 1-9 stretch in the series. They also have a minus-8.9 rebounding margin during those games.
Anthony had 22 points, six assists and a career-high six steals but was 8 of 24 from the field in the first meeting. He's averaging 31.5 points over his last four games against Chicago despite shooting 39.1 percent.
Perhaps the Knicks can take advantage of a Bulls teams ravaged by injuries. They were without four opening-night starters in Tuesday's 78-74 home loss to Milwaukee, their eighth in 10 games.
Joakim Noah was sidelined with a bruised right thigh, though coach Tom Thibodeau thinks he has a chance to play Wednesday. Luol Deng's status is unclear after he sat out with left calf tightness, while Jimmy Butler (turf toe) and Rose remain out.
Thibodeau didn't feel the eight-man rotation was a valid excuse. The Bucks, who had lost three of four, were limited to using nine players due to injuries.
"It doesn't matter," Thibodeau said. "Everyone who's called upon is capable of doing their job."
Woodson hopes to have Kenyon Martin back after he missed his second straight game due to an ankle injury.
The Knicks 5-15 start is tied for worst 20-game start in franchise history. If the Knicks lose tonight, it would be tied for their worst 21-game start in franchise history (last started 5-16 in 1986-87).
The Bulls trailed by 20 late in the third quarter...
Entering tonight... Over the last 15 seasons, teams trailing by 20 points with between 3 and 5 minutes left in the third quarter are 12-1,063
Trailed By 20 Points Last 15 Seasons
Between 3:00 and 5:00 Left In 3rd Quarter
Carmelo Anthony certainly takes some criticism, but he didn't get any help from the rest of the Knicks starting lineup on Wednesday, who combined for just 17 points on 6-for-24 shooting.