Jeff Hornacek sees Knicks 'making strides' after sixth straight loss

NEW YORK -- If you were looking for people with positive takeaways from the latest New York Knicks loss, you found them all over Madison Square Garden late Wednesday night.

Start with Jeff Hornacek.

The coach appreciated that his team gave an honest effort, something that couldn't be said often of the Knicks over the past two weeks.

"We did a lot of things right," Hornacek said. "We moved the ball better. We played good defense, we helped each other out and they're in the locker room tired right now. So they played as hard as they could, and that's all you can ask. That's making strides."

Giannis Antetokounmpo, of course, made sure the Knicks had to settle for progress over results. He hit an 18-foot fadeaway at the buzzer over Lance Thomas to give the Milwaukee Bucks a come-from-behind 105-104 victory.

Carmelo Anthony's look said it all after the final shot.

It was the Knicks' ninth loss in 11 games and one of the worst of the bunch, because New York had a 14-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas summed things up well when he said the Knicks seem to lack a killer instinct.

"I think we gave this one away," Anthony said.

But Anthony -- just like his coach -- drew some positive conclusions from the night.

"I think we'll win a lot of games if we play the way that we played throughout most of this game," Anthony said.

And really, if Anthony consistently plays the way he did for most of Wednesday's contest, the Knicks will be a better team.

Anthony moved the ball well for much of the night, finding open shooters when Bucks coach Jason Kidd sent a double-team at him and punishing the Bucks when he was single-covered. Yes, he missed his last three shots, but he also had a fantastic pass to Kyle O'Quinn that set up a layup to put the Knicks up three with two minutes to play. Anthony finished the night with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists, playing the kind of game that several people in the organization privately would like to see more frequently.

Of course, it all fell apart at the end for New York, thanks to Antetokounmpo. And despite all of the positives to emerge from the game, this is the NBA -- not summer camp. It's a bottom-line business and the bottom line for the Knicks (16-19) right now isn't good.

They haven't exactly developed the winning culture they had hoped to put Kristaps Porzingis in when they traded for Derrick Rose and signed Joakim Noah over the summer.

But there's still time. And Hornacek says he believes that if the Knicks can give the kind of effort they showed Wednesday on a consistent basis, they'll be OK.

"I think we were 3-6 and then we won those 11 out of 15. It was with effort like we had tonight," the coach said. "If we continue to do that, we're going to win games. Again, we just have to reiterate to the guys, that's how we want them to play. Things will take care themselves if you just play that way."

Rose takes blame, but wonders about lack of calls: Rose was clearly frustrated with the decision referees made on the Knicks' final possession Wednesday. New York had the ball with 8.6 seconds to play and Anthony threw a tight inbounds pass to Rose.

Antetokounmpo swooped in and knocked the ball away and out of bounds. Referees initially ruled that it went out off of Antetokounmpo. After a review, they gave the ball to the Bucks, setting up Antetokounmpo's game winner.

"I guess I lost the ball. Blame that one on me," Rose said.

"I felt like I had the ball. I felt like it was a hard swipe down and, like I said, I don't get any calls, so I guess I lost the game."

It will be interesting to see how the NBA interprets the play in its Last Two Minute Report on Thursday.

A non-call on Antetokounmpo's winner also raised questions. Antetokounmpo might have dribbled on the wing with his back to the basket for more than the allotted five seconds. NBA rules state that if a player dribbles with his back -- or side -- to the basket below the free throw line extended for more than five seconds, it should be a turnover.

Anthony noted after the game that Antetokounmpo had the ball in his hand for more than five seconds.

"I thought he had the ball for seven, eight seconds in his hand. That's a different story," he said.

Both Anthony and Hornacek commended Thomas' defense on the play, but Hornacek noted that another Knicks player could have helped contest the winning shot. Rose seemed to be closest to Antetokounmpo.

Melo says Knicks are remaining positive: Things can go sideways during extended losing streaks. Sometimes teams fracture. Sometimes player-coach relationships become strained. Is that happening with the Knicks? No, Anthony said.

"We're not going to let anything seep into this locker room as far as negativity," Anthony said. "... I know right now we're not going to allow ourselves to get down, especially with the guys on this team. We know how to react to situations like this. So it's just a matter of sometimes when things are not going your way, they're not going your way. We've got to figure out a way to get out of that."