The Knicks gave themselves some extra cushion in the Eastern Conference playoff race Monday night, defeating the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden, 89-80. Carmelo Anthony shook off his recent shooting woes to lead New York with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Mike Dunleavy came off the bench to lead the Bucks with 26 points.
It was a pretty suspenseful day in Knicks Land and it had nothing to do with Tim Tebow. News came out during the day that Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire were questionable for the game against the Bucks. Lin’s injury (a sore left knee) is not considered serious and he could possibly play Wednesday against the Magic. However Stoudemire’s is of concern. He had an MRI today that revealed he has a bulging disk in his back and is out indefinitely. So the Knicks will be without two of their big men (Jared Jeffries and Amare Stoudemire) for the foreseeable future.
Of course, there was still a game to be played, and an important one at that. The Bucks came into MSG in ninth place in the Eastern Conference and 1.5 games behind the Knicks for the eighth spot. Starting in place of Lin and Stoudemire were Baron Davis and Iman Shumpert, and even without their key cogs, they got off to a fast start. Carmelo Anthony made his first three shots, en route to a big night. The Knicks came out aggressive on defense, building a 20-10 lead. However, led by Mike Dunleavy, the Bucks would storm back and were down just four after the first quarter, 30-26.
Dunleavy would continue his assault on the Knicks in the second quarter, as he finished the first half with 24 points, the most by any NBA player this year in the first half off the bench. He shot a blistering 9-for-10 from the field, including 5-for-6 from beyond the arc. The Bucks would take the lead, pushing it to nine at one point, before going into halftime leading 52-47.
The Knicks defense would then take over in the second half. They held the Bucks to 28 points on 31% shooting. Kudos to the defense of Baron Davis and Iman Shumpert on Ellis and Jennings all night. Meanwhile, the Knicks took advantage of 15 third quarter free throws to build a 68-64 lead they wouldn’t lose.
New Bucks SG Monta Ellis and Knicks antagonist Brandon Jennings, combined to go 8-for-36 shooting for just 19 points in the game. The Knicks received key contributions from Tyson Chandler (13 points and 9 rebounds), Shumpert (11 points and 6 rebounds), Baron Davis (13 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds) and J.R. Smith (9 points and 10 rebounds), despite a combined 6-for-25 shooting performance from Davis and Smith. The Knicks are now 7-1 under interim coach Mike Woodson and are now 2.5 games up on the Bucks for eighth in the East.
The Knicks have a big test this Wednesday against Dwight Howard and the New Jersey, err, I mean Orlando Magic.