Originally written on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 10/24/14
With the playoffs quickly approaching, Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks are looking like a force to be reckoned with. The slumping Milwaukee Bucks, in contrast, appear to be falling apart at a less than opportune time. Enjoying their longest winning streak in 19 seasons, the Knicks try for a three-game season sweep of the visiting Bucks on Friday night. One night after scoring a career high-tying 50 points in a 102-90 win at Miami, Anthony had 40 as New York (48-26) posted its 10th consecutive victory, 95-82 at Atlanta on Wednesday. "The rhythm was there and I wanted to see if I still had it going," said Anthony, who has shot 35 for 53 (66.0 percent) over the last two games. "It was just one of those nights once again." With most of the defensive attention focused on Anthony, J.R. Smith made 8 of 15 shots and finished with 19 points off the bench. Raymond Felton added 14. "Melo is smart enough to know that if he's doubled, he'll sacrifice the ball," coach Mike Woodson said. "And we've got enough shooters around him that are making big shots. That opens it up for him even more. And when he gets going like he did tonight, they're not going to leave him alone very often." Currently in second place in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks have outscored opponents by an average of 12.5 points during their run - their longest since putting together 15 consecutive victories in 1993-94. New York's recent surge shouldn't come as much of a surprise to Milwaukee (36-38), which has lost both its games this season to the Knicks by double digits and four straight overall. Anthony averaged 27.0 points in the two wins - just below his 28.1 season average - but shot 40 percent (16 for 40). Milwaukee's woes continued during Wednesday's 107-98 loss to last-place Minnesota, its ninth defeat in 13 games. Ersan Ilyasova had 29 points and 12 rebounds, but the Bucks allowed the Timberwolves to shoot 52.4 percent. Milwaukee, which was outscored 58-38 in the paint and 15-5 in fast-break points, also committed 20 turnovers - its highest total in nearly three months. "I haven't seen us play that sloppy in a while. It's a tough one for us to swallow right now at this point in the season," coach Jim Boylan said. "We've got to stop throwing one-handed, cross-court passes and get back to the fundamentals of the game. Pass with two hands. See your target and deliver the ball. Have nice, simple easy plays." Despite their recent struggles, the eighth-place Bucks can clinch their first playoff berth since 2009-10 with a win Friday and a Philadelphia loss to Atlanta. While they may be hoping to avoid facing league-leading Miami in the first round, a potential matchup against New York likely wouldn't prove much easier at this point. "I don't talk about that at all. I don't even think about it. I just want to go to the playoffs," Larry Sanders said. "We're not afraid of anybody. You just have to put your shoes on and play 48 minutes." Sanders, second in the NBA with 2.9 blocks per game, is averaging 16.3 points over his last six contests - 6.4 more than his season mark. Brandon Jennings, meanwhile, has averaged just 10.9 points on 30.3 percent shooting in his last seven games, well off his season mark of 17.6 per game. The Bucks have dropped a season worst-tying four straight on the road by an average of 13.2 points.
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