NBA Basketball

Hawks aim to extend Knicks' skid into All-Star break

(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce wants to see his young team finish the first portion of the season strong.

The New York Knicks, who visit the Hawks on Thursday in their final game before the All-Star break, simply want a win.

The Knicks (10-47) have the worst record in the NBA and have lost 18 straight, a single-season franchise record and two short of the 20-game streak that spanned the 1984-85 and 1985-86 seasons.

Two of New York's victories have come against Atlanta. The Knicks won the first meeting on opening day, blasting Atlanta 126-107 at Madison Square Garden, then came back three weeks later for a 112-107 victory in Atlanta. The Hawks won the third meeting 114-107 in New York on Dec. 21, the Knicks' fourth straight defeat in an eight-game skid.

New York dropped a 126-111 decision to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday. The Knicks nearly erased a 26-point, third-quarter deficit, drawing within six points on Luke Kornet's 3-pointer with 6:41 left, but they missed two succeeding chances to narrow the margin.

Despite the struggles, coach David Fizdale believes the team is headed in the right direction.

"I like what we're sitting on right now, and I'm excited for our future," he said prior to the Wednesday loss. "Some teams take longer to get there. It just depends on how all that stuff goes in the offseason."

The Knicks' top scorers lately are new arrivals.

Dennis Smith Jr. is averaging 16.6 points in six games since he was acquired from the Dallas Mavericks. Kadeem Allen, recalled from the G League late last month, is averaging 17.3 points over the past three games. Both Smith and Allen scored 13 against Philadelphia.

"Credit to (Westchester coach) Mike Miller and our G League staff for getting these guys ready," Fizdale said. "Every time those guys come up, they are ready to perform. Consistently that has happened for us every time we've bought a guy up."

Atlanta, in the middle of a rebuilding effort, has one of the youngest teams in the league and typically starts two rookies. Pierce said this portion of the schedule can be particularly daunting for a young team that continues to feel its way through the season.

"This is the scary part after the trade deadline," Pierce said. "We're trying to get ahead of the story by understanding this is what happens. Everyone hits a lull, and we're trying to find a way to avoid it. But we have to talk about it, be real about it. Normally everyone relaxes and feels good after the trade deadline. We relaxed too much."

The Hawks dropped three consecutive games overall and five straight home games before beating the LeBron Jones-led L.A. Lakers 117-114 on Tuesday. Atlanta played with more effort, something that was lacking in back-to-back listless losses to the Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic last weekend.

"It's the effort, our approach, our activity to move the basketball," Pierce said.

Atlanta made a deeper commitment to its rebuilding earlier this week when it finalized a contract buyout with veteran point guard Jeremy Lin, who signed with the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. The move freed up payroll for the Hawks, but it means more responsibility for rookie Trae Young. DeAndre' Bembry and Kent Bazemore will be the backups there until rookie Jaylen Adams returns from an ankle injury.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 14, 2019

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