Knicks focus on defense in preparation for Bucks

NEW YORK — The defensively challenged New York Knicks will face a tough test when the Milwaukee Bucks pay a visit to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.

The Knicks (16-18) have lost five straight in which they have allowed over 100 points in each game. They have the fifth-worst defensive rating in the league. Opponents are shooting 45 percent against New York, including .354 percent from beyond the arc.

The Knicks have lost 10 games by 11 points or more.

Adding to their worries, New York could be without second-year forward Kristaps Porzingis, whose status is uncertain due to an Achilles injury that has kept him out of the past two games.

In the Knicks’ 115-103 loss at home to Orlando on Monday, the Magic tied their season high with 15 made 3-pointers. Three players scored at least 20 points and Nikola Vucevic and Elfrid Payton came off the bench to record their 17th and third double-doubles, respectively, this season. Vucevic scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and Payton contributed 13 points and a career high-tying 14 assists.

“We have to find someone to play defense,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We have to have better pride. When you give a team three or four straight 3-pointers right off the start, you give them hope.

“We didn’t have enough fight to let them (Orlando) even take the shots. We might be good enough defensively. We might have to figure out ways to trap. Some of it is closeouts. Our guys were scrambling and we didn’t get out to them.”

The Bucks (17-16) feature the league’s top offense when it comes to points in the paint and a rising star in 23-year-old shooting guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo recorded his seventh straight game with 20-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in Milwaukee’s 98-94 win over Oklahoma City on Monday. He finished the game with 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

His current streak is now the second-longest in franchise history (Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, 13 from Nov. 11-Dec. 6, 1972). Antetokounmpo also extended his career-best streak of games with 20-plus points to 12 and tallied his 15th double-double.

“You look at what he does on a consistent basis, that’s what stars are measured on,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “Giannis isn’t just about scoring the ball. He’s able to make plays — he makes winning plays — and that’s what stars do in this league. So for what he’s done here, from the beginning of the season, you can see his confidence is growing.”

Like his team, New York’s leading scorer, Carmelo Anthony, is also in a slump. In the five-game losing streak, Anthony is shooting just .361 percent from the floor. He has contributed only two double-doubles this season, compared to 22 last season.

“We have to get back to the gym, back to the basics and try to find some practice time,” Anthony said as a possible solution to the team’s defensive struggles. “We have to go back to the drawing board and get some reps up.”

The two squads meet again on Friday in Milwaukee.