Trying to quickly bounce back from a loss to the reigning two-time NBA champions, the New York Knicks seek their eighth straight victory over the league's worst team - the Milwaukee Bucks - on Monday night.
New York (19-28) had its four-game winning streak ended Saturday with a 106-91 loss to Miami. That concluded a 4-4 homestand that matched the longest in franchise history.
J.R. Smith turned in his latest strong game with 20 points, but the Knicks outscored 48-30 in the paint and let the Heat shoot 53.9 percent.
''Whenever we got real close, they got two or three stops in a row and then they scored on those,'' said Smith, who has averaged 18.0 points and 49.1 percent shooting in his last four games, though he's 9 for 20 from the foul line in that span. ''We just weren't able to counter for some reason. They just got a lot of easy baskets.''
The Knicks, who have matched last season's loss total, found plenty of baskets in different ways in their two wins over the Bucks (8-39) this season. They shot 50.7 percent while scoring 50 points in the paint during their season-opening 90-83 home victory Oct. 30, then made a season high-tying 17 3-pointers in the most recent win, 107-101 in double overtime at Milwaukee on Dec. 18.
Despite shooting 35.6 percent in those two victories, Carmelo Anthony has averaged 29.0 points during New York's seven-game run against the Bucks. He's also averaged 29.7 and 48.4 percent shooting in 13 lifetime games at Milwaukee.
Knicks guard Iman Shumpert could miss his third straight game due to a sprained right shoulder.
If Anthony and the Knicks can shoot 50 percent, they would appear to have a good chance at a victory. New York is 9-0 when making at least half its shots, while Milwaukee is 0-13 when opponents make half of theirs.
The Bucks, the only NBA team with a single-digit win total, are trying to avoid their third losing streak of at least seven games as they seek their second win in 17 contests. They were swept on a two-game road swing, losing 99-90 to Memphis on Saturday.
Milwaukee came undone early in the fourth quarter when the Grizzlies went on a game-breaking 16-4 run.
''We played 2 1/2 good quarters, we just didn't finish it,'' coach Larry Drew said, later adding: ''We had the energy in the first half, but in the second half we didn't, particularly in the third quarter.''
Brandon Knight had 23 points and seven assists for the Bucks, the league's worst shooting team at 42.1 percent and also its lowest-scoring at 91.9 points.
Knight, averaging career highs of 16.1 points and 4.7 assists, scored 36 - the second-highest total of his career - and hit six 3-pointers against New York in December.
It is uncertain if O.J. Mayo, Milwaukee's second-leading scorer at 12.2 points per game, will miss his fifth straight contest after not making the trip due to illness.
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