Knicks extend season-best win streak to 6
NEW YORK (AP) — Before Phil Jackson can begin reshaping their future, the New York Knicks are trying to make something of this season.
Carmelo Anthony scored 23 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. had 20, and the Knicks beat the Milwaukee Bucks 115-94 on Saturday, giving them a season-high six straight victories as they prepare to welcome Jackson back to the franchise.
“We’ve got to really focus in on what’s the task at hand, and that’s still trying to make this push and not even looking forward to next season at this point,” Anthony said.
Amare Stoudemire and J.R. Smith each scored 15 for the Knicks, who easily ended their daytime woes by pounding the team with the NBA’s worst record.
New York began the day 3 ½ games behind Atlanta for the final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference. But the playoff push has taken a backseat to the news that Jackson was coming in to run the Knicks’ front office — except in the locker room.
“I think our focus is solely on what we have to accomplish to make the playoffs, to be honest,” center Tyson Chandler said. “I know it’s a lot going on, but as an athlete, you don’t pay too much attention to it, because it’s out of your control, anyway.”
The Knicks will introduce the 11-time champion as a coach at a press conference Tuesday morning. Jackson will find a team playing its best basketball of a disappointing season.
“Better late than never,” Stoudemire said.
The Knicks shot 55 percent, led by as much as 25 points and have won six in a row by double digits for the first time since November 1969, according to information provided to the Knicks by Elias.
“The easiest thing to do is to start talking about next year at this point in time right now, but the guys on the team seem pretty confident about just staying focused right now, winning basketball games and try to make this push for the playoffs,” Anthony said.
Nate Wolters scored 15 for the Bucks, who lost their third straight. Brandon Knight and Ramon Sessions each added 14.
The Knicks had lost all seven games that began before 3:30 p.m., six by double digits. Things were so bad earlier this season that coach Mike Woodson even had the players stay overnight in a hotel the night before a home game.
But with unusually high energy in the arena for a noon tip, whether because of the winning streak or the Jackson news, the Knicks were sharp from the start.
New York made 55 percent of its shots in a 30-point first quarter, then scored 30 more in the second. The Knicks even got a banked-in 3-pointer from the corner by Iman Shumpert, shortly after Milwaukee’s Ersan Ilyasova missed a wide-open layup.
“I thought we had no real defensive presence,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said.
The Knicks led 88-66 after three. They have feasted on a weak portion of their schedule to hang around in the playoff race, though things turn tougher with a visit from Indiana on Wednesday.
Woodson continues to stress that the Knicks can still make something of this season, though the focus on Jackson has turned much of the attention to the team’s future.
“It’s basketball. Teams, they try to reshape, they go through changes and this is no different,” Woodson said before the game. “You’re bringing a great basketball mind into your organization and eventually it’ll be reshaped. So how and who and when, only time will tell.”
Jackson played for a pair of title-winning teams in New York, including the 1973 squad whose 40th anniversary the Knicks celebrated last season. The drought seems certain to extend at least another year, even if the Knicks can win enough to get into the postseason.
They were helped Saturday with the return of starters Chandler, who missed two games for family reasons, and Stoudemire, who sat out the last one to rest.
Shumpert finished with 14 points.
“We really feel like we’re going to get that spot,” Chandler said. “If we take care of our business, we do what we’re supposed to do, we feel like we’ve got a great shot.”
Notes: The Knicks have won the last five meetings at Madison Square Garden and took a 98-97 overall lead in the all-time series. ... Knight had scored 20 or more in the previous four games.