NEW YORK -- A good start by the Milwaukee Bucks meant nothing Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Not when you throw in a 33-point second half with a few other very ugly numbers: the Bucks shot 31.7 percent and were outrebounded, 31-18, and outmuscled by the New York Knicks after intermission.
For the second straight game the high-powered Bucks offense sputtered against a superior opponent as Milwaukee dropped a 96-86 decision to the Knicks before a sellout Garden crowd of 19,033.
Even the sharp green and purple retro uniforms couldn't save the Bucks (24-21), who actually led by 12 points early in the third quarter.
But it was a disaster after that as the Knicks (29-15) started pouring in threes and Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler took over in the paint.
Carmelo Anthony paced New York with 25 points and J.R. Smith and Stoudemire each added 17 off the bench.
Chandler grabbed a season-high 20 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass.
"They just came out with a lot of energy in the second half," said Bucks guard Brandon Jennings.
"It made us a little hesitant, the fact they were doing so much switching (on screens). We were just missing point-blank shots."
The Bucks went 6 of 18 in the fourth quarter and did not score a point until Jennings scored off an inbounds pass with 7 minutes 43 seconds remaining.
But by that time the Bucks' lead had disappeared.
Milwaukee scored just eight points in the first 11 minutes of the quarter and trailed, 95-81, before picking up five points in the final 31 seconds with the game already decided.
"We were just searching at the end, trying to find a way to put a team out there that could score a little bit for us," coach Jim Boylan said.
"I knew 85 points against the Knicks was not going to be enough."
Knicks coach Mike Woodson said he made an adjustment during the third quarter on his team's defense against the tandem of Jennings and Monta Ellis.
"I called a timeout and we started to trap them to be a little more aggressive," Woodson said. "We trapped and rotated out.
"That jump-started us from a defensive standpoint. It got us over the hump."
Jennings, who was frustrated and finally ejected in the Bucks' home-court loss to Chicago on Wednesday, struggled with his shooting touch against the Knicks.
He was 5 for 18 and finished with 14 points. Ellis hit 7 of 20 shots and scored 16.
Forward Ersan Ilyasova led the Bucks with 19 points, including 16 on 7-of-8 shooting in the first half as Milwaukee grabbed a 53-47 lead.
"We played two teams that grind it out," Jennings said. "The Bulls are not easy. They're going to grind you for 48 minutes.
"And the Knicks, they can run you out of the gym if you're not careful on the defensive end."
The Bucks did a good job controlling New York's three-point shooting in the first half, but Anthony and Smith hit key threes in the second half.
After Milwaukee spurted to its 59-47 lead early in the half the Knicks quickly responded with 3 threes, one by Anthony and back-to-back triples by Smith.
An offensive rebound by Anthony led to a three-point play that gave the Knicks a 74-73 lead entering the final quarter.
Stoudemire opened the fourth quarter with two free throws and backed down Samuel Dalembert and scored as New York extended its margin to 78-73.
"I put in a lot of work this off-season to work on my post game," Stoudemire said. "There are still moves I haven't incorporated yet.
"The more I practice the more it becomes a permanent thing. Right now I feel very comfortable."
After Jennings finally broke the Bucks' scoring drought, Iman Shumpert drove for a basket and Chandler dunked as the Knicks took control with an 82-75 lead.
"We buckled down in the third and fourth quarters," Anthony said. "We made our adjustments. Milwaukee made some shots in the first half so defensively we gave more effort and that got our offense going as well."
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