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With the wheels coming off this season, the New York Knicks host the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
After starting the season 17-17, New York is 6-14 in its last 20 games and has scored under 97 points during each of the three last three games, all losses. The Knicks combined to shoot 105 of 270 from the field during the slide, bottoming out with a 73-point performance in a 30-point loss at Boston on Jan. 31.
The Knicks, coming off a 99-96 loss to the NBA-worst Atlanta Hawks in which they gave up a five-point lead with under two minutes left, have fallen to a season-worst eight games under .500.
"I can't even process that we lost," Knicks leading scorer Kristaps Porzingis told reporters after the game. "I can't believe it. It was our game. It was 100 percent our game. Stuff happened quick, and boom, it was over. ... We're just not there yet as a team. We keep losing these games."
In playing Milwaukee (29-23) for the second time in five nights, the Knicks will have to try to put the reins on Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 29 in a 92-90 Bucks win on Friday in Milwaukee. Antentokounmpo suffered a sprained ankle in a 109-94 win at Brooklyn on Sunday, but does not expect to miss any games and is listed as day-to-day.
The Bucks have won six of seven, including two straight since the return of former No. 2 pick Jabari Parker from a long absence caused by a torn ACL. Parker has scored 23 points in the two games and appears to already ready to be a key cog in the offense going forward.
"I'm proud of him," Bucks forward Khris Middleton told reporters after Parker's first game back. "It's tough to go through what he went through twice, then come back and play like nothing's ever happened. It's great. I know there was a lot going through his mind, but he did a great job of just going out there and playing basketball."
For New York, the Bucks offer a good chance to get back on track, as the Knicks match up with them well on paper. New York is outrebounding Milwaukee this season, 44.4 to 39.0, and the Bucks rank just 19th in the NBA in points per game (104.7) and 11th in points allowed (104.9). The Knicks are right behind the Bucks in both categories -- 20th in points per game (104.1) and 13th in points allowed at 105.5.
Porzingis is going to have to regain his shooting touch if New York is going to follow his lead.
After scoring 30 points in eight of his first 11 games, he's gone cold of late, last hitting the 30-point plateau in late-December. Against the Hawks, Porzingis started the game 2 for 10.
"My mid-range, the first half, I don't know what the hell was happening," Porzingis told reporters after the game. "I couldn't make a shot. I wanted to be more aggressive and get to the free-throw line, get myself going like that."
Updated February 6, 2018