With the low-post defenders Tyson Chandler and Jared Jeffries missing because of injuries, the ’ defense continued to wallow, allowing a slew of easy, often uncontested shots in on Friday night.
Coach Mike D’Antoni lamented the loss of Chandler and Jeffries after a loss at San Antonio on Wednesday night, and the defensive malaise continued against the Bucks, a team that was averaging only 95.6 points.
“We couldn’t get enough stops,” D’Antoni said.
The Knicks said they were confident Chandler would play Sunday against Philadelphia as he recovers from a strained left hamstring. They certainly missed his presence Friday, allowing the Bucks to get uncontested jumpers and easy layups repeatedly. It led to the Knicks’ fourth consecutive loss, as the Bucks pulled to two games behind the Knicks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“I understand it’s an up-and-down season for us,” Amar’e Stoudemire said. “ We’re still trying to figure things out.
“We’re still getting better as a team. One thing we have to be sure to do is stay together, stay positive and also to learn from our mistakes.”
Ersan Ilyasova scored 5 points in the final minute en route to a team-high 26 points for the Bucks. Brandon Jennings added 25 points and 10 assists, and Mike Dunleavy scored 25.
Stoudemire scored 27 points but was called for traveling in the closing seconds with the Knicks trailing, 116-113.
“Turnovers definitely are something we’ve been talking about all season,” Stoudemire said. “We can’t afford to turn the ball over, especially in the fourth quarter down the stretch.
He added: “It’s the most important time in the game. You have to be able to execute and be smart, and contain the ball and don’t turn the ball over down the stretch.”
Carmelo Anthony finished with 22 points, but only 7 after halftime. Jeremy Lin scored 20 points.
The Knicks continue to struggle since Anthony and Baron Davis returned from injury, and J. R. Smith was signed as a free agent three weeks ago. In an effort to get more out of Smith, D’Antoni started him on Friday, saying he wanted a small lineup against the quick Bucks.
“We want to look at J. R., and try to get him jump-started,” D’Antoni said before the game.
It did not seem to work. Smith scored only 3 points in 18 minutes, and had trouble keeping up defensively with Jennings. Smith was sent to the bench just 94 seconds into the fourth quarter and did not return.
Smith, who has been involved in several episodes that have led to multiple suspensions during his professional career, started another controversy Friday when he sent a Twitter message that included a photograph of an exposed backside of a female friend.
The photo was later removed from Smith’s Twitter account, but was circulated by various Web sites.
A Knicks spokesman declined to comment, but Smith offered no apology when asked about it before the game.
“I get a lot of criticism for everything, so I don’t worry about it,” he said. “I just focus on the game.”
After the game, he was conciliatory.
“I didn’t know it was going to be as big deal as it is now,” he said. “I definitely regret it. It takes away from our team. Anytime I do anything that takes away from our team, I’m definitely going to regret it.”
Besides his off-court problems, Smith’s presence in the lineup and Davis’s return to action have created a logjam at guard for the Knicks.
The rookie Iman Shumpert was the odd man out of the rotation Friday night. After averaging about 26 minutes per game in the last four contests, Shumpert played only five minutes without scoring.
The league office rescinded the technical foul given to Tyson Chandler on Tuesday at Dallas. That reduces his number of technicals this season to nine. Players receive a suspension after their 13th technical.