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Knicks stretch win steak to six

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Thanks to stellar shooting and aggressive rebounding, the New York Knicks jumped all over the Milwaukee Bucks, 115-94, on Saturday.

The Knicks (27-40), riding a season-high six-game winning streak and inching toward the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, received 28 of their 41 rebounds from their starters as they helped eliminate second-chance shots by the Bucks.

Small forward Carmelo Anthony had a game-high 23 points for the Knicks, who also received large contributions from shooting guard J.R. Smith, power forward Amar'e Stoudemire, shooting guard Iman Shumpert and rookie shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr.

"This is Knicks basketball and what our fans have grown to love about us," said Anthony, noting that the timing of this hot streak couldn't have come at a better time. "We're playing (well) and having fun and everybody is in synch. The most important thing is that we're coming together at the right time.

"It's sad and unfortunate that we had to wait until our backs were up against the wall and dug ourselves into this big hole, but we'll take it right now (because) we're playing our best basketball of the season right now. We just got to keep taking it one game at a time and make this run."

The Knicks received 64 points from their starters, who shot a collective 55 percent from the field, as the new starting lineup did its part.

Smith and Stoudemire regularly come off the bench, but coach Mike Woodson shook up the lineup and started the veteran duo. They rewarded the switch by each contributing 15 points, while also showing off well-rounded games.

Smith added a game-high eight rebounds and a team-high four assists, while Stoudemire contributed six rebounds and a blocked shot.

"It's great (to see his lineup change work)," Woodson said. "I kind of flipped it a little bit with J.R. in the starting lineup. "Our backs are against the wall and we're trying to get into the playoffs.

"We've experienced playoff basketball the last two years ... but this year it's been a roller-coaster ride for our ball club. But we can still come out of this thing and get that eighth spot. The only way to do that is to continue to win. And guys have been playing well."

Shumpert, who used to be a regular in the starting rotation, added 14 points, four rebounds and four assists off the bench, while Hardaway Jr. registered 20 points, including 11 in the first half.

Milwaukee's young backcourt of point guard Brandon Knight and rookie shooting guard scored 14 and 15 points, respectively.

Woodson said he liked the way his own young players have taken a liking to their newfound reserve roles.

"Iman is back to playing how we expected him to play," Woodson said. "He's defending, making some shots here and there, and when he's doing that it changes how we play the game because he normally energizes our players when he gets after the opponent.

"And it's kind of nice to have him and Timmy come off the bench and scoring that way. As a group, we're playing better and that's a good sign."

The most encouraging sign for the Knicks is the way their "Big 3" has jelled during this winning streak. Center Tyson Chandler missed a couple of games because of personal reasons, but said he's happy to be back and glad to see everyone adjusting to their roles.

"It felt good to be back out there with my brothers," Chandler said. "It felt great to win. Everyone got accustomed to that last year. We have to attempt to win every game and to do that we have to make sure we play with that right type of energy.

"Both lineups (starters and bench) are playing well and understanding what it takes to get back (to the playoffs)."

Woodson reasoned that as his veteran trio goes, so does the rest of the squad.

"They're playing well," the coach said. "We just haven't had them on the floor over a long period of time to play minutes and develop some chemistry amongst each other. That's been tough to have Amar'e on limited minutes and all the injuries that we had with Tyson missing time.

" ... Carmelo has really been the only consistent one in the bunch. But it's kind of nice to see them all playing well together and buying into what we want done. And also to have everyone who is surrounding them play well and at a high level. It makes things a lot easier."

What made the Knicks' win easier was the way the Bucks folded after the first quarter.

The first half was the turning point in the game, as the Knicks shot 56.4 percent from the field and led, 60-42, at the break, as the Bucks (13-53) never threatened again.

The 60-point mark by the half was the fifth time in six games that the Knicks reached that milestone.

Stoudemire said that once their pivot returned to the lineup, he, Anthony and Chandler decided to set the tone for the rest of the season and make that push for the playoffs.

"We're all former All-Stars and have achieved all types of individual accolades in this league and have played with top teams and been successful, so when you put guys like that on the court together you're going to figure it out," Stoudemire said.

"Jelling late) is better late than never, so we have to accept that. But we know what it takes. We all have the same common denominator, and that's we all want to win. And when you have that in common, it's easier to figure it out."

The Knicks will be off until Wednesday night's game The Garden against the Indiana Pacers.

NOTES: The Knicks will hold a press conference on Tuesday to make a major announcement. The decree is likely the official hiring of legendary coach Phil Jackson to head the franchise's basketball operations. ... Both coach Mike Woodson and SF Carmelo Anthony spoke about Jackson's pending arrival: "I can't answer that question because it's going to be new to Phil," Woodson said when asked what he expects from Jackson. "He's usually the one in the locker room coaching and teaching. But as a general manager you have to be able to teach, support and build a team (from afar). I don't know what to expect." ... Anthony said he's excited to have Jackson aboard. "For the most part, I think we're just happy it's just done and over with -- all that speculation," Anthony said. "I think that (uncertainty) can easily sink in a player's head and mess with them, mess with a locker room. But I think we did a great job of keeping that out and focus on basketball. It's done now and we accept Phil. He's a basketball guru, a basketball genius, and us players respect him. ... We're ready for him." ... The Knicks won by at least 10 points for the sixth straight game for only the second time in franchise history. ... Anthony scored all of his points in only three quarters, as the Knicks' 88-66 margin was so great entering the fourth quarter that his services were no longer needed. ... Anthony joked that he had to get to the foul line early because his pregame shoot-around didn't go so well. "When I came out to shoot (pregame), my (3-point shot) wasn't falling, so I figured I should try and get closer to the basket and get to the free-throw line," Anthony said. "These early games, you have to try something different. It wasn't falling for me early, but my teammates picked me up. Everybody played a great game." ... SG Tim Hardaway Jr. continued his torrid streak by adding 11 points in the first half. Hardaway Jr., who ranks in the top five of every rookie statistical category, shot 5-of-7 in the first half and finished 8-of-12 from the floor for the game. It was the third-straight game in which he's scored at least 20 points. ... The Knicks shot 55.3 percent from the floor (including 56.4 percent in the first half), while the Bucks shot 43.2 percent (including a respectable 47.4 percent in the first half). ... C Tyson Chandler made his return to the lineup after missing the last game because of personal reasons and registered two points and five rebounds in 26 minutes. Like his fellow starters, he sat out the fourth quarter.

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