Hours before the Knicks stepped on the Madison Square Garden court Monday night for a rematch against the Hawks, the players got a visit from team president Phil Jackson during the morning shootaround.

Jackson said he delivered a message about something that "irritated" him about Saturday's loss in Atlanta.

"I did step on the court today," Jackson said in his first meeting with reporters since the preseason, "and told players, 'If guys lean all over you and put their nose in your business, you have a right to protect yourself.'"

So Jackson wants more toughness. He also said he wants more defense, and less focus on the much-discussed triangle offense.

Bottom line: He really wanted the Knicks to avenge Saturday's defeat and end their four-game losing streak. "I said, 'The only thing that's important about this game that you should know is you have an opportunity to play them Monday and redeem the loss you got on Saturday night,' " Jackson said.

Unfortunately for the Knicks, redemption was not on the menu Monday night. The Hawks outplayed the Knicks down the stretch in a 91-85 win at the Garden.

The Knicks (2-6), who went into the fourth quarter trailing by five, got to within 75-74 when Carmelo Anthony hit a jumper with 2:51 left. But the Hawks (3-3) scored the next six points as the Knicks went cold at the wrong time.

Anthony led the Knicks with 25 points on 11-for-25 shooting with nine rebounds and seven assists. Iman Shumpert (18), Tim Hardaway Jr. (15) and J.R. Smith (12) were the other Knicks to score in double figures.

Paul Millsap led Atlanta with 19 points. Kyle Korver scored 17 points, Dennis Schroder had 14 and Al Horford had 12.

Anthony did show a little "irritation" with the Hawks in the fourth quarter, perhaps taking Jackson's advice to heart. Anthony exchanged words with Pero Antic about an elbow and then got into a minor shoving match with Thabo Sefolosha.

The Knicks were able to crank up the defense in the first half. But their own offense was lacking and the teams went into halftime tied at 38.

The second half got off to a promising start when Shumpert and Hardaway hit consecutive threes to give the Knicks a 44-38 lead.

But the Hawks came back and used the three-point shooting of Korver to retake the lead (50-49) with 7:23 left. Atlanta led by five going into the fourth at 64-59.

On Saturday, the Knicks led by 15 points in the first half. They ended up losing, 103-96.

"We had a good game going the first half at Atlanta and failed coming out of that halftime," Jackson said. "That's part of the growth prospect of this team. I think for our fan base and our people who are impatient for the team to immediately show this progress, I think you're going to see progress and you're going to enjoy it. I think you're going to see the kind of basketball that was demonstrated in the first half of that game on Saturday"

While saying the triangle offense should not be the focus when people evaluate his team, Jackson did offer a colorful analogy in describing the system. "This offense -- we talk about it as being five fingers on a hand, five players on the floor," he said. "If one finger is not functioning very well, you have a hard time buttoning your shirt or even pulling up a zipper. You have to have all five fingers, all five players, operating in the system. It makes everything work well because all five are involved."

Notes & quotes: Pablo Prigioni returned after missing two games with a sprained right ankle and had three points in 22:04.