In a possible preview of a first round playoff series, the Knicks defeated the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden last night by a score of 96-86. The Knicks entered the game second in the Eastern Conference while the Bucks entered seventh in the conference standings. The Knicks were led by Carmelo Anthony’s 25-point, eight rebound, six assist performance. The Bucks were led by Ersan Ilyasova, who stuffed the stat sheet with 19 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists.
It looks as if both teams hooked up for some Thursday night partying because the start of this game was ugly. After Anthony got the game’s scoring started with a three-pointer, the Knicks went on to miss their next five shots. The Bucks were no better, missing their first five. Eventually the players would settle in, especially Ilyasova, who matched his season average of 10 points per in less than ten minutes of play. Anthony matched Ilyasova’s total with 10 points of his own. Meanwhile, Tyson Chandler was well on his way to a huge game on the boards, hauling in six first quarter rebounds. Despite the cold shooting to start for both squads, the first quarter ended with the Bucks up 28-25.
The Bucks scored the first five points of the quarter to extend their lead to eight, setting up a hot shooting quarter for them. After both teams shot below 44% in the opening quarter, the Bucks got hot in the second, shooting 53%. They would eventually extend their lead to 12 behind the scoring of Ilyasova, Monta Ellis and perennial Knick-killer Mike Dunleavy, who combined for 16 of the Bucks 25 second quarter points. With the Knicks down 46-34, the Knicks ended the quarter on a 14-7 run to cut the deficit to six at halftime, 53-47. Amar’e Stoudemire led the Knicks in the quarter with six points off the bench.
A quick 6-0 spurt to start aided by the backcourt duo of Ellis and Brandon Jennings extended the Bucks lead to 12 again before the Knicks defense finally decided to clamp down. A 10-0 run powered by Anthony and J.R. Smith pulled the Knicks to within a basket before the combo of Jennings and Ilyasova scored seven straight to extend the Bucks lead quickly back to nine. Then the Knicks massively paid trio of Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler got to work, scoring the Knicks next 11 points, helping them get to within a basket once again. A Smith trey gave the Knicks their first lead since the first quarter and they would carry that one-point lead into the fourth quarter. The Knicks defense which has been non-existent for the past couple of weeks reappeared, as they held the Bucks to 30% shooting in the quarter. The Knicks had a scare in the quarter, when Raymond Felton seemed to have re-aggravated his pinky injury. He went to the bench with 42.5 seconds remaining and immediately began to ice down the finger, making Knicks fans hold their breath at the possibility of being without their starting point guard yet again for an extended period of time.
The bad shooting first quarter performance returned for both teams, as this time they each failed to shoot 40% in the quarter. However, it was good enough for the Knicks, as they began the period 13-4 run to extend their lead to 10, essentially ending this one. The Bucks scored just 13 points in the period and got no closer than eight, as the Knicks eventually pushed their lead to 15. Two Bucks baskets to end the game made the score more respectable but the Knicks ended this one with a 96-86 victory.
- Chandler was an absolute beast on the boards, as he had a Knicks career high 20 rebounds. It was the first time Chandler has had 20+ rebounds as a Knick.
- Anthony continued his string of 20-point performances with his 31st straight such contest. After doing some research, the MSG Network revealed that the streak is the longest for one season in Knicks history. The overall record for consecutive 30 point games is actually 33, held by Richie Guerin who did it over two seasons.
- After being benched quickly to begin the second half with what Coach Mike Woodson described as a lack of energy, Iman Shumpert returned in the fourth quarter to disrupt the Bucks backcourt duo and score seven points in the period to lead the Knicks.
- Speaking of the Bucks backcourt, the duo of Jennings and Ellis combined for 30 points but shot just 12-for-38 from the floor.
- Stoudemire continued his strong play, with 17 points and seven rebounds off the bench. It was the ninth straight game in which Stoudemire made at least half of his field goal attempts.
- With the win, the Knicks moved to within a half game of the Miami Heat for first in the East. With a win tonight and a Miami loss tomorrow night against the Toronto Raptors, Woodson would assure himself of coaching the Eastern Conference All-Stars at this year’s All-Star Game.
- Speaking of All-Star weekend, East captain Dwayne Wade revealed he has selected his college teammate Steve Novak for the three-point contest and James “Flight” White for the dunk contest.