NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — With the Knicks in a terrible late-season slump, Carmelo Anthony says their game Monday against Dwight Howard and the Magic is “almost a must win for us.”

“We understand how important this game is for us,” Anthony said at the Knicks’ training center. “It’s almost a must win for us. That mentality, that’s something that I want to approach it, as a must-win game. We’ve been talking about that throughout the team.”

Told of Anthony’s must-win belief, coach Mike D’Antoni said: “We’ve had a few of those lately, and we haven’t seemed to get one, so every game we go out is a must win. It’s a must play well.”

“We’ve been using those cliches and trying to do this and that, and it’s almost time to draw a line in the sand and let’s play as hard as we can play,” D’Antoni added.

Despite their slump, the Knicks are still seventh in the Eastern Conference with room to spare. Anthony said he wasn’t worried about a complete collapse, but D’Antoni and team president Donnie Walsh said the playoffs weren’t a guarantee.

The Knicks open a four-game homestand Monday. After the Magic, who have won all three meetings this season, New York hosts New Jersey, Cleveland and Toronto, all well below .500.

But the Knicks have been maddeningly poor against fellow losing teams, going 0-3 this season against the Cavaliers and losing twice to both Indiana and Milwaukee during the last 10 games. D’Antoni said it had been hard for the team to keep its confidence up “because we’re losing all the time.”

“So the first thing you do is just play harder,” he said.

The Knicks also changed a routine.

New York held its first home morning shootaround of the season Monday. The Knicks usually have a walkthrough in the afternoon at Madison Square Garden, believing a morning trip to Westchester, then a drive into Manhattan, wasn’t the best use of their time. They practiced at their training center the morning of a game only one other time in the last two seasons, on the morning of Tracy McGrady’s debut last year.

But after a day off Sunday, they decided to get to the gym early.

“I think when you’re losing a lot, you change something,” Walsh said. “So we’ll see if the change helps us.”

Is it “almost” a must win for the Knicks? Sound off in the comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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