Coming off his first loss as New York’s coach, Lenny Wilkens will face another of his former teams as the Knicks visit the Atlanta Hawks.
Wilkens, who compiled 301 victories as coach of the Hawks from 1993-00, won his first three games with the Knicks before losing to Houston on Wednesday night. The Hall of Famer has already beaten two of his former clubs, as the Knicks defeated Seattle last Friday and Toronto on Monday.
New York saw its four-game winning streak end with Wednesday’s 86-71 loss. The Knicks had no answer for Rockets center Yao Ming, who had 29 points and 10 rebounds.
New York forward Keith Van Horn had his second straight poor game, shooting just 3-of-13 from the field and scoring 11 points. Van Horn is 4-of-22 from the field in his last two games.
Van Horn isn’t the only Knick who has been struggling of late. Allan Houston has had trouble getting the ball, as the high-scoring guard has averaged only 10.5 shots in the last two games.
“We needed to help Allan to get open a little bit more,” Wilkens said. “I haven’t focused on changing the offense. When I see we don’t get it to Allan, then I’m going to make adjustments.”
New York had scored 100 points in four of five games, but got bogged down in a half-court game Wednesday and was routed by Houston for the second time in less than two weeks. The Rockets won 111-79 at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 8.
“We should get more up-tempo,” Wilkens said. “When you get in a half-court game you really need to execute.”
While the Hawks are battling Chicago to stay out of last place in the Central Division, they have been playing better basketball lately. Atlanta, which has managed to win three of five, will attempt to win back-to-back games for the first time since April.
“We need to go ahead and get that done,” forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim said. “We need to not be worrying about winning two games in a row.”
Abdur-Rahim scored eight points during an 11-0 run in the final 3:36 as the Hawks beat the Bulls 97-87 on Wednesday night to move past Chicago and out of the Central cellar.
The Hawks’ last winning streak was a four-game run in April that ended with a loss to New Orleans in the season finale. On Friday, Atlanta will make its 13th attempt to win back-to-back games since that streak.
With that goal in mind, the standings take a back seat.
“We’re not really worried about that right now,” said Jason Terry, who had 14 points and seven assists against the Bulls. “We’re just excited and enthused about the way we’ve been playing.”
With eight of their next 10 at home, the Hawks hope to finally string together some wins.
“We’re still at the bottom,” Abdur-Rahim said. “We’re not really where we want to be. We’ve got a nice stretch at home and we need to get some things done.”