Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 3/9/12
MILWAUKEE Since Carmelo Anthony returned to the New York Knicks' lineup, all of the momentum built up through the height of Linsanity has officially been squandered. Following New York's fourth consecutive loss -- the latest coming Friday in Milwaukee -- there were several Knicks players hanging their heads in the locker room. Most notably, power forward Amare Stoudemire sat at his locker for several minutes staring straight ahead while teammates packed their bags and headed out. "As a captain of this team, I just have to make sure guys stay together," Stoudemire said. "Understand that it's an up and down season for us, but we're still getting better as a team. We have to stay together and stay positive but also learn from our mistakes." The biggest problem for New York in its four-game losing streak has been defense. The Knicks allowed Boston to score 115 points, followed by giving up 118 to San Antonio and now 119 to the Bucks. "Offense shouldn't be a problem," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It should never be a problem. What we have to do is have consistent energy, defend harder and have a desperation about us that we need to get in the playoffs. "Sometimes we focus on things that are not important. And offense is not important." While Anthony was out with a groin injury, the Knicks won seven of their eight games. It was during that stretch without Anthony that point guard Jeremy Lin went from a player who was nearly cut to a must-see superstar. Since Anthony returned Feb. 20, New York has lost six of its eight games. Whether the blame for the Knicks' struggles should fall entirely on Anthony is debatable, but there's no question that it will. However, last two games proved just how important center Tyson Chandler's impact on the defensive end is for New York. With Chandler out again Friday due to a strained left hamstring, the Knicks allowed the Bucks to score their most points of the season, even while playing without Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson. "Tyson's a very integral part of our team, (and) we can't wait 'til he gets back to help us defensively," Stoudemire said. "We have to do a better job defensively out there. We have to do a better job of containing and getting stops. "The offense is starting to flow. Defense just has to catch up now. We have to do a better job to try to contain the ball and get stops when we can. That's something we have to work on." Anthony summed things up even more succinctly about the Knicks' problems since he came back. "Right now we don't have that energy to win basketball games, which we have to find," he said after scoring 22 points on 7-of-17 shooting. Even the typically upbeat Lin was trying to come to grasps with New York's fading edge in the playoff race. "It's hard when you don't win games to keep a bigger perspective to understand that maybe we've had improvement, but it's not showing in the win-loss column," said Lin, who had 20 points and 13 assists in a dual with Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings. "That's the frustrating part, but we'll get there. We're going to win some and lose some." With four of the Knicks' next five games coming against Eastern Conference playoff teams, there's not much time to lose many more. New York now only leads the Bucks and the Cleveland Cavaliers by two games for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. New York hosts the 76ers on Sunday, followed by a trip to Chicago to face the Bulls. Meanwhile, Milwaukee's schedule is much easier with games against New Jersey and Toronto. So, by the time the Knicks return from Chicago, their once-commanding lead in the playoffs could be completely gone. If Lin and Anthony continue to lose while in the lineup together, Thursday's trade deadline could become a lot more interesting in New York. For a team that wants to win now, the Knicks' current roster is clearly not getting it done. Follow Paul Imig on Twitter.
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