NBA Basketball

Bucks hope to regain footing vs. Knicks

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Bucks are still somewhat comfortably in playoff contention but they're starting to run out of time for a climb back up the Eastern Conference ladder.

The Bucks, losers of six of the last seven games, have dropped into eighth place in the Eastern Conference and will get a chance to get back on track Friday night when they host the struggling New York Knicks.

It will be the fourth and final meeting of the season and last one at the Bradley Center.

The Bucks appeared to be on track after firing coach Jason Kidd on Jan. 22 by winning winning 10 of their first 13 games under interim coach Joe Prunty.

If there's reason for optimism, it's that Giannis Antetokounmpo looks like he's returning to form. The forward scored 22 of his 30 points in the second half of Wednesday's 110-99 loss to the Houston Rockets.

He spent a good chunk of time playing center in that contest as Prunty made up for the absence of Tyler Zeller, still dealing with soreness after a hard fall Monday at Indiana, with a smaller lineup against Houston.

"Coach told me before the game he was going to try to play me at the five," Antetokounmpo said. "I was ready for it. (Clint) Capela, he's a great center, but he's less physical than all the other centers in the league so I was pretty much good with that."

Milwaukee has dominated the Knicks this season, winning the first two meetings and three in a row over New York overall.

New York has dropped 13 of its last 14 games overall including five in a row, are is 1-9 since Kristaps Porzingis was lost for the season with an ACL injury in a Feb. 6 loss to Milwaukee.

Starting point guard Jarrett Jack has not played since the All-Star break and shooting guard Courtney Lee has had his playing time cut as well, leading some to wonder if the Knicks are the next team to get a tanking warning from commissioner Adam Silver.

Coach Jeff Hornacek issued a preemptive warning of his own Thursday during a practice session at Marquette University two days after a 111-87 loss at Portland.

"There's a difference between tanking and trying to look at the future," Hornacek said. "And we made trades to bring these guys in. We brought Trey (Burke) in from the G-League and Emmanuel (Mudiay) from another team. That's a totally separate thought process. We're seeing if they can play for us."

Jack likely won't see action again Friday and nor will Lee, who's not with the team because of a death in the family. That leaves Hornacek to continue with his rookie backcourt.

"We're trying to evaluate our three young point guards," he said. "Moving forward, we got to make decisions on those guys. We have to play them as many minutes as possible. Jarrett has done a great job for us this year. But we're at the point of the season we need to take a look at those guys and give them bigger minutes. It's hard to judge them on five minutes here and there."

Updated March 8, 2018

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