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Hawks seek defensive help versus Knicks

NEW YORK -- The Atlanta Hawks head to Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon for the rubber match of the teams' season series.

More importantly, the Hawks need to get their defense back on track.

Until its Jan. 26 game against Charlotte, Atlanta had allowed 119 or more points six times in their first 47 games. Including that game, a 121-110 Hornets win, the Hawks have allowed 119 or more in four of their last five, including a 119-110 loss at Boston on Friday.

"I mean, you can score, but at the end of the day you still got to get stops and we didn't do that today," Atlanta's Dennis Schroder said after the loss to the Hornets.

For the Knicks, defense has not been the primary problem. In fact, New York ranks in the top 12 in the NBA in points allowed (105.6) and rebounds (44.4).

But a stagnant offense led by a fading Kristaps Porzingis has averaged only 104.2 points per game this year. And things are getting worse.

New York has combined to score only 163 points in its last two games, losses at Boston and Milwaukee.

Porzingis, who ranked among the league's five best scorers in the early part of the season, has come undone. He scored a combined 33 points in the losses to the Bucks and Celtics and got little help from his running mates.

The Knicks' second-leading scorer, Tim Hardaway Jr., totaled 10 points in the two games on 2-of-24 shooting.

"My shots weren't falling," Hardaway told reporters after the 92-90 loss to the Bucks. "I put this on me. I put this one on my shoulders. I take all the blame for this."

In the team's first matchup, a 116-104 Hawks victory in Atlanta, New York's offense did well enough -- shooting 51 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 86 percent from the free-throw line -- but the Hawks had seven players in double figures, led by Dennis Schroder's 26 points. Porzingis had 28 points in the matchup and Hardaway 22, but with Enes Kanter out, New York's starting center Kyle O'Quinn had two points.

Sixteen days later in MSG, Porzingis scored 30 and Doug McDermott added 23 off the bench in a 111-107 Knicks win. In that game, New York led by 10 with six minutes left, only to watch the Hawks climb to within two with 20 seconds left before the Knicks closed it out.

"The bench stepped up tonight," coach Jeff Hornacek told reporters after the win. "That was huge for Doug; for us too. ... He attacked the basket. I thought we did a better job of getting downhill, getting down the lane and then kicking out. With the combination of Jarrett (Jack) and Ron (Baker) , Frank (Ntilikina) did some of that and Doug drove in there, so when we keep it spread out and we drive it, it gives a few more opportunities to shoot threes and get to the basket and maybe even get fouled."

Updated February 3, 2018

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