After getting off to a horrible start, the New York Knicks appear to be turning things around. The Philadelphia 76ers, meanwhile, ended 2007 on a strong note, but have been awful in the new year.
The Knicks try and bounce back from a loss against the league's best team and avoid losing five straight games to the 76ers for the first time in more than 20 years as they meet at Madison Square Garden on Friday.
New York (13-28) was tied with Miami for the league's second-worst record (8-24) on Jan. 5, but has won five of its last nine games.
The Knicks lost to NBA-best Boston 109-93 on Monday, finishing the first half of the season with four fewer wins than they had at the midway point of 2006-07. New York was down 59-45 at halftime against the Celtics, and coach Isiah Thomas was once again disappointed with the team's early energy.
"We have tried everything. I have tried benching, yelling. Again, a lot of your fire needs to come from within," Thomas told the team's official Web site. "There's a certain amount of intestinal fortitude that you have to have as a man."
The Knicks will be without point guard Stephon Marbury indefinitely after he had surgery Tuesday to remove bone spurs from his left ankle.
Marbury, who has missed six straight games and 16 of New York's last 25, said last week he would try to return this season.
Jamal Crawford had 22 points on Monday, and is averaging 25.4 points - 5.5 points better than his season average - in his last five games. Crawford had 28 points in the Knicks' 101-90 loss to Philadelphia on Dec. 7, but only six on 3-of-12 shooting in their 105-77 home loss the next day.
Zach Randolph, who had 24 points and 15 rebounds on Monday, has scored just six points on 3-of-14 shooting, while grabbing seven rebounds in the two games against the 76ers this season.
New York has lost four straight, and eight of its last nine to Philadelphia. The Knicks have not lost five straight games to the Sixers since dropping seven in a row from Oct. 26, 1985-Nov. 19, 1986.
While New York has struggled against Philadelphia lately, the Sixers have had minimal success against everyone they've played this month.
Philadelphia (16-27) won nine of its last 13 games in 2007, but is just 2-10 in 2008.
The Sixers lost to Detroit 86-78 on Wednesday, when they scored just 15 fourth-quarter points on 6-of-17 shooting.
"We've got to find a way to finish games,'' said Andre Iguodala, who had 15 points. "We've got to get stops.''
Willie Green had a team-high 16 points on Wednesday after scoring nine on 3-of-12 shooting in Monday's 110-103 loss to Indiana.
The Atlantic Division rivals wrap up their season series on Feb. 20 in Philadelphia.
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