New York opened 2015-16 in Milwaukee with what stands as its top scoring night, and it's heading back looking nearly as capable.
The Knicks visit the Bucks on Saturday night seeking a third straight win, while Milwaukee is out to avoid a third straight loss as both teams complete back-to-back sets.
A 42-point first quarter in Friday's 108-91 home win over Brooklyn continued New York's recent trend of getting off to impressive starts. It amounted to a 21-point first quarter lead, and the Knicks (10-10) have averaged a 17.0-point advantage after the first half in their last three games - though one of those was Sunday's 116-111 home overtime loss to Houston.
No one's going to confuse them for Golden State just yet, but the typically modest Knicks are averaging 102.7 points in regulation in their last three while shooting 48.2 percent overall following a three-game span on which they posted marks of 82.3 and 35.7.
"I thought the guys were very intent on playing together and really sharing the basketball and sending the message that they're capable of doing that," said coach Derek Fisher, whose team had a season-high 25 assists.
They built a 31-point lead in the third quarter with an impressive night from each of their top three scorers. Carmelo Anthony led the way with 28 points on 9-of-18 shooting, Kristaps Porzingis had 19 and Arron Afflalo scored 18 on 7 of 11. Anthony was coming off two poor efforts, but Porzingis is averaging 18.7 on 58.3 percent with 11.0 rebounds in three straight double-doubles, and Afflalo is at 20.7 points on 65.0 percent in his last three.
Jose Calderon had a season-high 10 assists, and it was the point guard who gained his coach's praise for a one-point effort.
"I remember thinking during the game that Jose was probably the best player on the floor tonight because he was OK with not having any points," Fisher said. "And I don't think it's a coincidence that we won the game in an easier fashion when you have a player only thinking about making his teammates better. The more guys we can have thinking that way, the game can get easier for us. We can win games in a more efficient fashion."
Milwaukee, meanwhile, has been a mess offensively as it heads into a three-game homestand.
The 63-point first half the Knicks are coming off of is exactly where Milwaukee (7-13) was until there was 7:23 remaining in Friday's 102-95 loss at Detroit. But that was an improvement over Wednesday's 95-70 loss in San Antonio when the Bucks were sitting on 59 points until the four-minute mark. They're averaging 85.8 points while shooting 41.3 percent in their last five games.
That was up to 44.8 against the Pistons, but Milwaukee was 4 of 18 from 3-point range and is connecting on 28.2 percent from outside in its last five, falling to 3-10 since opening the season 4-3.
"We can't keep coming up with empty possessions," coach Jason Kidd said.
It could be even more difficult to recover Saturday if Jerryd Bayless is out. The Bucks lost the point guard to an ankle sprain midway through the third quarter, resulting in more playing time for the struggling Michael Carter-Williams. Bayless missed the game against the Spurs but has started his last three with Tyler Ennis filling in against the Spurs.
The Bucks have won five of the last six in the series with this being the third meeting already this season. The Knicks won the opener 122-97 on Oct. 28 before Milwaukee won 99-92 at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 6. Anthony has been limited to 14.0 points and 31.3 percent shooting.