Knicks-Hawks Preview


Even in a woeful Eastern Conference - and in spite of Carmelo Anthony's explosive scoring - a playoff spot is appearing more and more out of reach for the New York Knicks.

The Atlanta Hawks could also soon find themselves out of the postseason picture if their skid continues.

New York will look for its 10th victory in 12 meetings on Saturday night as the struggling squads match up in Atlanta.

Beyond a 10-6 record last month, the Knicks (21-34) have struggled to sustain any success. But in a conference where only four teams own better-than-.500 records, New York is 4 1/2 games behind Atlanta for the final playoff spot.

That margin seems much larger given some of the Knicks' recent results. Anthony scored 44 and the Knicks led by as many as 14 points in the third quarter at Orlando on Friday before crumbling in a 129-121 double-overtime defeat, their seventh loss in nine games.

"It is just another game that I feel that we gave away," Anthony said. "We were up and had a comfortable lead. They fought back and never quit."

Besides losing to Orlando, New York also dropped games earlier in the month to Milwaukee and Sacramento. Those three clubs are a combined 45-120.

Anthony is averaging 27.8 points and shooting a career-best 41.7 percent from 3-point range. He's also averaging 34.3 points and hitting 55.3 percent of his tries from long distance over his last seven meetings with Atlanta after scoring 35 in a 111-106 home victory on Dec. 14.

However, another big scoring night might not necessarily salvage a victory for New York, as Friday's result illustrated. The Knicks are 2-4 when he scores 36 or more.

The Hawks (25-28) have lost eight in a row following Friday's 115-107 loss at Detroit. They haven't dropped nine straight since starting 0-9 in 2005-06.

The injuries continue to pile up with point guard Jeff Teague sitting out against the Pistons due to a sprained left ankle he suffered in Wednesday's loss to Washington. Atlanta is already without center Al Horford for the season, while backup Pero Antic (ankle) is out indefinitely. Reserve center Gustavo Ayon also missed his second straight contest Friday due to a shoulder injury.

Fifteenth-year pro Elton Brand made his fifth start and second in a row after scoring a season-high 20 against the Wizards, but wasn't nearly as effective versus Detroit, tallying seven points in 27 minutes. Any hope of Antawn Jamison - whom the Hawks acquired from the Clippers on Thursday - providing a boost to the depleted frontcourt was lost earlier Friday when Atlanta waived him. He had only played 22 games for Los Angeles, including just one since Jan. 15.

Despite the attrition, the Hawks held an 11-point halftime advantage after scoring 41 in the second quarter on 17-of-20 shooting. They were outscored 34-20 in the third.

"We had that huge second quarter, but they must have gotten a huge pep talk at halftime, because they really came out for the third with a lot of energy," said Kyle Korver, who is 18 of 35 from beyond the arc over his last seven.

Friday marked New York's first game without Iman Shumpert after he sprained his left MCL in Wednesday's win at New Orleans. J.R. Smith was 4 of 14 with 10 points while starting in his place.

New York won two of the first three meetings despite shooting a combined 43.4 percent from the field compared to 53.8 percent for Atlanta. The Knicks averaged 29.5 points off turnovers in their victories.