After struggling against teams likely bound for the playoffs the last two weeks, the injury-riddled New York Knicks hope an easier schedule will help boost their fading postseason chances.

The Knicks look to win for just the second time in seven games Saturday when they visit a New Orleans Hornets team that is also trying to stay alive in the playoff race.

New York (31-41) is two games behind New Jersey for the eighth and final postseason berth in the Eastern Conference. During their 1-5 stretch, the Knicks faced Western Conference-leading Dallas twice and played two games with Cleveland and one against Orlando, which is 2 1/2 games ahead of them in the East.

Injuries have hurt New York's postseason chances.

Already playing without David Lee (leg) and Jamal Crawford (ankle), the Knicks announced Friday that Quentin Richardson will miss the rest of the season after undergoing back surgery. Steve Francis then sat out Friday's 105-103 loss to the Mavericks with a sprained ankle.

Stephon Marbury scored a season-high 43 points on 14-of-29 shooting, but his final shot was blocked by Dallas' Josh Howard and he also committed a crucial turnover with 26 seconds left when the Knicks trailed by one.

"It's a learning experience when we got that turnover. They were trying to double and get the ball out of my hands," Marbury said of his attempted pass to Renaldo Balkman. "But he got caught up and couldn't get there. He's a rookie."

New York is hoping to use its upcoming stretch to move up in the standings. Following Saturday's game against the Hornets (32-40), the Knicks face Philadelphia, Minnesota and Milwaukee, all of which have fewer wins than New York.

"If we play like (Friday) the rest of the way, we'll give ourselves a chance to win," Marbury said. "Tonight we played with a lot of intensity. ... We showed we want to make the playoffs."

New York has lost four straight against New Orleans and six of the last nine matchups on the road.

Like the Knicks, the Hornets' chances of making the playoffs took a hit with injury news Friday, when it was announced that Peja Stojakovic will further delay his return following a rehab setback.

Stojakovic had a disc fragment removed from his lower back in December and the team hoped he would be able to play Saturday, but he was unable to finish practice Friday.

Stojakovic, who hasn't played since Nov. 24, is averaging 17.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13 games.

New Orleans is coming off a 92-88 loss to San Antonio on Wednesday, its second straight defeat and 10th in 14 games. The Hornets are in 10th place in the Western Conference, three games behind the eighth-place Los Angeles Clippers.

"It's tough, especially being in the playoff hunt," point guard Chris Paul said. "We've got to try and win the rest."

The Hornets beat the Knicks 92-90 on March 16, as Paul had 20 points and Francis' 3-pointer at the buzzer rattled out.


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