Since losing to the Pelicans on December 1st and falling to 3-13 on the season, the Knicks have played .500-plus basketball, going 6-5 over their last eleven. It's hard for even the most diehard fans to notice the improvement, however, and not just because the turnaround hasn't exactly morphed them into the second coming of the 1996-97 Bulls. The 2-1 week brings the Knicks' record to 9-18, good for third place in the Atlantic Division (progress!), eleventh place in the Eastern Conference and, believe it or not, leaving them just two games out of a spot in the playoffs.

The slight turnaround is hard to pick up on because the Knicks' performances have typically fallen into three categories: Blowouts of an opponent so severe as to make one wonder whether the Knicks aren't winning because of some defect any team could exploit, narrow wins over terrible teams that should never have been so close, and losses. Brutal, depressing, dispiriting losses.

The week started in typical fashion Wednesday, with a double-OT win in Milwaukee over a Bucks team that may be the worst in the league (107-101) in Tyson Chandler's long awaited return from injury. They followed that up with a loss in a flat, disheartening performance against Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies at the Garden on Saturday afternoon (95-87).

Of course, there's another reason why it's hard to pick up on the fact that the Knicks are in the midst of a not-so-bad 6-5 stretch: every game seems to bring a significant injury. Last night was no exception. Already playing without Pablo Prigioni, Kenyon Martin and Ron Artest, the Knicks were up twenty in the third quarter against the Magic when Carmelo Anthony sprained his left ankle, turning what looked to be an easy win into a tight game. And that was before Raymond Felton, in his first game back from a series of leg injuries, left the game with a groin pull. The severity of the injuries are not yet known, but they certainly put a damper on what turned into another narrow win over a terrible team (103-98).

What Went Right This Week: When a team that's nine games under .500 goes 2-1, it's a positive. But it was more than just that. In Milwaukee, Beno Udrih had a nice offensive game as his teammates struggled, scoring 21 points on 8-12 shooting as Melo and JR struggled from the field. The Knicks would not have gotten the win without Udrih's clutch shooting in overtime (he made two threes, one in each extra session). After the game, there were a lot of jokes about JR's whopping seventeen three point attempts.

That's a ton, to be sure, but he also made one to keep the Knicks in it when they fell behind by four early in the first OT, and made a huge jumper to give the Knicks the lead for good with just over three minutes left in the second. His nineteen point, 7-23 line might not look great, but he made them when it mattered. That Tyson Chandler's return to the lineup was a victory was no coincidence. He didn't look totally comfortable in his first game back, but he did plenty of Tyson Chandler things, coming up with some key defensive plays down the stretch as the Knicks narrowly escaped Milwaukee.

It's hard to take anything positive from the Grizzlies game. The Knicks were down ten at halftime and nineteen with just over six minutes to play before mounting a furious comeback that brought them within four. Melo shot the ball well overall, going 11-22 for thirty points but the rest of the starters were just 5-26 on the day. Good games off the bench for Smith (6-12, sixteen points) and Hardaway (7-13 for sixteen of his own), weren't enough to overcome the Knicks' inability to control the interior on offense or defense. If there's a silver lining, it's that they didn't quit. Well, they did quit, but they did it in the beginning of the fourth quarter before deciding maybe they didn't mean it. Still, the game was good for things like this:

Last night's game in Orlando was the first time Felton, Smith and Chandler played together this season and for two and a half quarters the Knicks dominated the Magic. Then Melo rolled his ankle and went to the locker room. To that point he had been playing very well, scoring an efficient nineteen points on 7-14 shooting. Chandler looked spry, putting together his pre-injury normal ten points and thirteen rebounds and it was a real pleasure to see him get the pick-and-roll working with Raymond Felton. That play was the Knicks' hammer last season and hadn't been seen for months.

When Felton came up hobbled with 3:14 left to go and the Knicks up four, it looked like the Knicks were in real trouble. But Beno Udrih did a good job down the stretch, making six clutch free throws, Andrea Bargnani made two huge jump shots and Iman Shumpert took the game over defensively. Shump, who had been struggling mightily with his shot, had a strong game on both ends, going 4-7 for nine points. His steal and breakaway layup gave the Knicks a six point lead with 1:38 to go and all that was left was for Udrih to make his free throws.

The Knicks wouldn't have been in position to seal anything had it not been for the play of JR Smith, who continued his slow return to last season's sixth-man-of-the-year form with eighteen points on 7-17 shooting (3-6 from three), ten rebounds, four assists and an awesome block of a Tobias Harris layup that could have tied the game with 3:22 left.

What Went Wrong This Week: If Carmelo Anthony has to miss extended time due to his ankle, that's a doomsday scenario for the Knicks. Anthony's 26.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 30.9% usage rate (the number of possessions on which he shoots, turns it over or gets to the line) can't be replaced. It won't be good news if Raymond Felton, already playing at less than 100%, has to miss extended time either, especially considering they'll be without Pablo Prigioni for another week.

The Knicks probably would not have needed a second overtime to beat Milwaukee if Andrea Bargnani had any sense of the game situation when he collected the ball of an offensive rebound with the Knicks up two and 11.9 seconds left. Instead he did this:

In Milwaukee, Mike Woodson played Carmelo Anthony a whopping 55 minutes and Tyson Chandler 37 in his first game back from injury. While it's hard to see any alternative, that kind of workload for the Knicks' two most important players is a recipe for disaster. It also speaks to the challenges presented by the combination of injuries and the Knicks' poorly constructed roster (Cole Aldrich is supposed to be an NBA player but apparently he isn't. He does wear his mouthpiece around his ear all game. Hey, buddy, that warmup suit you're wearing has at least four pockets. You're gross). They also allowed 36 points to Bucks' point guard Brandon Knight, a player who averages 13.9 points a game. The Knicks' defense against point guards continues to be an abomination.

Against Memphis, a team that came in having lost five straight, the Knicks were dominated 56-29 on the boards and were outscored 60-28 in the paint. That's a Grizzlies team playing without bruising center Marc Gasol, by the way. And apparently staying in a hotel in Manhattan the night before an afternoon game didn't solve whatever problem causes the Knicks to stink in the daytime as they fell to 0-3 in matinee games. This was arguably an improvement as they lost by just eight, as opposed to the 31- and 41-point drubbings they've taken in afternoon games this season. Progress(?).

Anything Funny?: Zach Randolph's return to MSG is an annual excuse to watch this video from the bad old days:

Stephon Marbury yelling "Did anybody see what Isiah pulled off" is dark humor at its finest. My god is it hard to be a Knicks fan.

Up Next: First, the Knicks will wait for news on Carmelo Anthony's ankle. Then they'll focus on the Oklahoma City Thunder, who the Knicks play on Christmas afternoon (gasp) at MSG. That one could get ugly, with or without Melo in the lineup. After that, the Knicks have a home-and-home series with the Raptors, who unexpectedly sit atop the Atlantic Division. Don't look now, but if the Knicks get good news on Melo, manage to survive the Oklahoma City Thunder experience and sweep the Raptors, they just might be at the top of the division by 2014.

You can follow Jonathan Fishner on Twitter @therealkingfish, and check out his blog The Real King Fish.