New York (26-26) at Brooklyn (17-37)

By KATE HEDLIN, STATS Writer Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 Tipoff: 7:00 pm EST Sat Feb 12, 2011

After a promising start to 2010-11, the New York Knicks’ defensive struggles have them in danger of falling below .500 for the first time in more than two months.

Amare Stoudemire(notes) and the Knicks try to avoid that fate and a third straight loss Saturday night when they visit a New Jersey Nets team seeking its first three-game winning streak in more than two years.

New York (26-26) is trying to snap a streak of nine straight losing seasons. That appeared likely after the Knicks opened 22-15, but they’ve since lost 11 of 15 - including four of their last five - to fall back to the .500 mark.

The Knicks struggled defensively again in a 113-96 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. Stoudemire had 24 points and 10 rebounds, but New York couldn’t contain Kobe Bryant(notes), who finished with 33 points. Two nights earlier, the Knicks gave up 116 points in a defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers.

“We’ve got to get back on the right track, we’ve got to get our confidence back up, got to play solid basketball, doing the little things on the court with energy and with swagger,” Stoudemire said. “We haven’t quite had our swagger for the past 2 1/2 weeks, so we’ve got to get back to what we’re used to doing and what we did well to start the year.”

New York has been especially poor on defense lately, giving up an average of 108.9 points in the last seven games while allowing opponents to shoot 51.6 percent.

While the Nets (17-37) won’t be confused with playoff contenders, they are looking to win three straight for the first time since a four-game run Jan. 31-Feb. 7, 2009.

Two night after a surprise 103-101 overtime win over New Orleans, New Jersey defeated Charlotte 94-89 on Friday to snap a 12-game road losing streak. It’s the fifth set of back-to-back wins this season for New Jersey.

Players credited flying into Charlotte early Thursday to hold practice as a reason for the improved performance on the road.

“I think that maybe we needed a little bit of a different rhythm to what we were doing and that might have provided that for us,” said Nets power forward Kris Humphries(notes), who had 15 points and 14 rebounds off the bench Friday. “Who knows if (coach Avery Johnson) is going to do that every time. Coaches do something different and you get a win and they want to keep it the same until it doesn’t work.”

Brook Lopez(notes) scored 31 points and added 11 boards. Lopez, who scored a season-high 36 against the Knicks earlier this season, has 51 points and 18 rebounds in his last two games.

The Nets can improve to 14-13 at home with a win Saturday.

The Knicks overcame Lopez’s heroics to take the first meeting with New Jersey this season, 111-100 at Madison Square Garden on Nov.30 behind 35 points from Stoudemire.

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Saturday, Feb 12