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Kings-Knicks Preview

AP - Sports

The New York Knicks are still one of the NBA's better scoring teams, but they've been leaning a little more heavily on their defense in recent weeks - and the success is hard to argue with.

The Sacramento Kings' already mediocre offense, meanwhile, is mired in a slump with the team's top scorer struggling to get back on track.

New York seeks a fourth straight win and a measure of revenge against the Kings when the teams meet Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks (29-15) rank in the top 10 at 100.7 points per game, but have looked like an improved defensive unit while winning three straight and six of eight.

Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 25 points in a 96-86 home win against Milwaukee on Friday, but New York won on the strength of its defense tightening up in the second half. The Bucks had 53 points in the first half but were limited to 33 in the final 24 minutes, including 13 in the fourth quarter.

The Knicks have held their last eight opponents to 91.5 ppg.

"Offensively we're going to miss shots, they're going to make shots, but if we can buckle down and do what we've been doing these last couple of weeks, we'll be fine," said Anthony, the league's second-leading scorer at 29.1 per contest.

After starting slow initially after his return, Amare Stoudemire has seemingly found a groove of late. He averaged 9.0 points on 43.5 percent field-goal shooting in his first six games after sitting out New York's first 30 contests recovering from knee surgery. In eight games since, he's averaging 16.0 points while shooting 62.7 percent from the field.

The Knicks received a slight scare Friday when point guard Raymond Felton - who missed 12 games earlier this season with a fractured finger on his right hand - bumped the same hand against a Bucks player and left the game temporarily before returning.

"It was a lot of pain," said Felton, averaging 15.4 points and a team-high 6.4 assists. "I went away when I put some ice on it. I think I'm OK."

Sacramento (17-31) pulled out a 106-105 win over the Knicks on Dec. 28 with James Johnson's 3-pointer at the buzzer proving decisive. New York did, however, erase a 27-point deficit despite playing without Anthony, Stoudemire and Felton, all of whom sat out with injuries.

The Kings have dropped two in a row and six of seven after an 89-80 loss at Philadelphia on Friday - two nights removed from being held to 81 in a defeat at Boston. Sacramento continues to struggle mightily on the road, going 5-18 compared to a 12-12 home record.

Tyreke Evans scored a season-high 29 points against the 76ers, Isaiah Thomas added 24, and DeMarcus Cousins had his 20th double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. But they didn't get much help, with only four other Kings combining for 15 points.

"We've got great talent, we know we can play with anybody," said Evans, scoring 14.9 ppg. "We've just got to be ready every night."

Cousins - one of nine players in the NBA averaging a double-double with 17.3 points and 10.1 rebounds - is putting up 11.5 ppg on just 39.7 percent shooting over his last six games.

The Knicks ended a four-game home losing streak to the Kings with a 100-85 win on Feb. 15.

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