This time, the Knicks missed 11 straight shots in the fourth quarter, allowing the to post a 102-96 victory, the boos to fill Madison Square Garden, and a continued lack of solutions to raise increasingly pressing concerns.
The losses are piling up against quality teams (Boston and Orlando) and mediocre ones (Indiana and Detroit). On Friday, skirted through the lane, settled beyond the 3-point line and generally spotted for whatever shot he found to his liking in scoring a season-high 37 points.
If any component was expected to suffer after the franchise-altering trade for , many expected it would be the team’s defense. It has. The Knicks allowed more than 100 points to the Bucks, who are last in the in scoring and field-goal percentage.
But the Knicks’ offense — Coach ’s staple and the source of stardom for Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire — has also been lacking late in recent games. The Knicks can diagnose their problems — a lack of practice time, too many games, not enough spacing on the court — but have yet to find a remedy. The combined result is five straight losses in which they have scored fewer than 100 points, and a record of 7-11 since Anthony joined the team.
“Just everything is so hard,” D’Antoni said. “It’s so not fluid. It’s almost like mud in your engine. We’re just chugging, and it’s tough to play that way.”
Jennings scored 9 straight points in the fourth quarter, helping the Bucks distance themselves after Stoudemire twice brought the Knicks to within a point. But after Stoudemire’s jumper with 9 minutes 3 seconds left cut the deficit to 87-86, the Knicks did not make another field goal until 2:59 remained. In between, Anthony (three missed shots), Chauncey Billups (three) and Stoudemire (two) contributed to the scoring drought. By then, Milwaukee’s lead was 10.
The Knicks (35-37) never led and lost for the eighth time in nine games. Billups blamed the team’s spacing for the problems. D’Antoni’s offense is predicated on teams making defensive mistakes in their rotations. But if the Knicks make the errors, there are no mismatches.
“When the spacing’s not there, teams pack it in and make you shoot tough shots,” Billups said.
Billups has not played at his normally high level since he sat out six games with a thigh bruise. He missed 8 of 11 shots Friday and said, “I can’t expect the team to win if I play like that.”
Stoudemire had 28 points and rebounded from a poor game against Orlando on Wednesday.
“We have to fight more,” Stoudemire said. “We have to put more effort on the court. We have to want these games. We’ve done nothing yet. We are not in the playoffs right now. We are in the seventh seed, but we are declining and these teams are trying to make their push for the playoffs.”
The Bucks (29-42) are one of those teams. They kept alive their flickering hopes in trying to edge the Knicks toward a historic collapse.
“They have been struggling for the last couple games and we knew they were going to try and make a statement tonight,” Jennings said. Andrew Bogut joined Jennings in dismantling the Knicks, contributing 21 points and 17 rebounds.
The Knicks are five and a half games ahead of Milwaukee, which is tied for ninth place with the , whom the Knicks play on Saturday. Only 10 games remain in the regular season. The hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks vow they will figure things out by the playoffs, which they have missed the past six years.
“I don’t know, I can’t put my finger on it,” Anthony said. “I don’t know. That’s the only thing I can say right now. It’s tough, tough times.”
Anthony scored 25 points on 9-for-22 shooting. He and Stoudemire appeared more comfortable when one rested and the other became the offense’s focal point. Anthony said he was still bothered by the five stitches he received near his left eye after a collision with Boston’s Rajon Rondo on Monday.
The Knicks converted just 6 of 24 field goals in the fourth quarter, half provided by Stoudemire. Anthony, Billups and Toney Douglas scored the others.
The Knicks have averaged fewer than 20 points in the fourth quarters of the last five games. On Friday, D’Antoni expanded his rotations and used 11 players, including Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams, who combined for 9 points.
“We are trying to figure out why everything is so hard for us, trying to look at the spacing and trying to get the energy up there to guard somebody,” D’Antoni said.