GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Not only is Giannis Antetokounmpo nicknamed “The Greek Freak,” he’s also “The Alphabet,” and he spelled “victory” for the Bucks against the Knicks Wednesday night at the Garden. Now the Knicks need to figure out The Alphabet in the sequel Friday night at Milwaukee.
They really need to figure out how to regularly spell “victory” again. The Knicks’ lightning rod for criticism knows that after seeing them drop nine of 11, including the last six, and fall to 16-19.
“For the most part, I thought we’ve put together something we can be proud of, aside from the past week, eight, nine days,” Carmelo Anthony said after practice Thursday. “ . . . But I’m not going to take this last week, eight days and that’s going to validate who we are as a team or validate our season. We still have 40-some games left to play. We’ve just got to get off this little slide right now and kind of get back to having fun and playing the basketball we were playing earlier.”
Later, he added about the critics: “Regardless of what happens, when we win, it’s us and when we lose, it’s me. I accept that.”
Anthony would love to add Kristaps Porzingis’ 7-3 presence for the back-to-back road work against Milwaukee and Indiana. “He’s a big piece,” Anthony said.
Porzingis is questionable, having returned to practice after missing three games with an Achilles problem.
“It’s feeling much better, much looser than it was before,” Porzingis said. “ . . . If I feel like it’s not there yet, then I’ve got to listen to the doctors. But for now, I feel like I should be ready for [Friday night].”
The Knicks were encouraged by their play against Milwaukee despite blowing a 16-point, third-quarter lead. They lost, 105-104, on The Greek Freak/Alphabet’s buzzer-beating jumper, which gave him 27 points.
Anthony delivered 30 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. The team moved the ball.
And there were signs of actual defensive cohesion.
“It was a lot better,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “When the guys did switch, they communicated.”
If the season ended today, the Knicks wouldn’t be in the playoffs. They are in 10th place in the East, 1 1⁄2 games out of a playoff spot entering Thursday. But they were only 3 1⁄2 games behind fourth-place Charlotte (20-16).
“We can’t get panicked,” Hornacek said. “If we were in a division where all of a sudden you lost six in a row and you’re eight games out of the playoffs, now maybe guys would really drop their heads. But in the East, I think it’s going to be like that all year. There’s a lot of teams about like us . . . So it’s going to happen. We just can’t quit fighting and quit playing.”
Knicks lag in early All-Star voting returns. After the first week of fan voting for next month’s All-Star Game in New Orleans, Anthony stood fifth and Porzingis was seventh in the Eastern frontcourt and Derrick Rose ran fifth among the guards. The fans count 50 percent and the players and media voting each count 25 percent.