NEW YORK (AP) -The Knicks say they haven't quit, but somebody at Madison Square Garden has given up.
``We're coming into the building today and employees (were saying), 'Oh, you'll beat them by 40. You'll beat them by 50,''' Milwaukee coach Larry Krystkowiak said Friday after the Bucks' morning shootaround. ``That's ridiculous.''
Maybe not. It just happened a night earlier.
New York lost 104-59 Thursday night in Boston, its third-worst loss and second-worst scoring performance of the shot-clock era. The Knicks bounced back Friday, rallying from a 17-point deficit to beat the Bucks 91-88.
``Every time you lose a game in New York you're on death row here,'' coach Isiah Thomas said. ``So tonight they unstrapped the belts and I get to walk. Had we lost I'm sure they'd have wet me down.''
The Knicks have gotten used to being embarrassed, on and off the court. But Thursday was something new, coming in a rare national TV appearance. New York trailed by 52 points late in the game, renewing talk that the players have given up on Thomas.
``It's bad right now,'' Charles Barkley said after the game during TNT's postgame studio show. ``I like Isiah, but it's bad. A team can't lose by 50 points.
``I feel bad for Isiah because he brought all those players (to the Knicks) and they have quit on him.''
Not true, say the Knicks.
``That's not our job to listen to that,'' forward Quentin Richardson said before Friday's game. ``Our job is to go out there and play basketball and we have to stick together with the guys that's in this locker room, not the guys that's on TV or the guys that's writing or saying anything. That's not our job to listen to what they say or believe.''
New York had won its previous two games, turning in a particularly strong effort in Monday's 113-109 victory over the Utah Jazz. That quieted speculation that Thomas would lose his job, but it all came back in a hurry after Thursday's debacle.
Still, Thomas attempted to paint a rosy picture before Friday's game, pointing out that a victory would give the Knicks three wins in four games.
``You try to move on. You've got to move to the next game,'' he said. ``And this is a league where thank God for us there is a game tonight and you can move past last night. But last night was ugly.''
Thomas dismissed the idea that his players' effort Friday would show how they feel about him.
``We need to play well because we represent the Knicks and what we did last night was totally unacceptable,'' he said. ``But I don't, I don't look at it that way.''
A rift seemed to develop between Thomas and his players during a western trip earlier this season. Stephon Marbury skipped the opener in Phoenix after losing his starting spot, but Thomas then played him 34 minutes the next night, even after teammates reportedly voted not to allow the point guard to play.
The Knicks lost all four games on the trip, closing with a 34-point loss at Denver. They returned home and lost by 27 to Golden State, then trailed by 21 the next night in a loss at Detroit, with Pistons guard Flip Murray saying the Knicks, ``looked like they didn't want to compete.''
New York responded with its two straight wins after losing eight in a row, and the players know victories are the only way to change the perception of Thomas and themselves.
``I think the best way to quiet anybody is success,'' guard Jamal Crawford said. ``So I think the more wins you get, the more quieter people get. After we won those two in a row, nobody really said much.''

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