WHAT IT MEANS: The Knicks can breathe a small sigh of relief after Wednesday night's win in Milwaukee. They have a two-game lead over the Bucks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with eight games to play.
The win over the Bucks also prevented Milwaukee (28-30) from gaining the all-important tiebreaker over New York (30-28). The season series between the two teams is tied at two. The next tiebreaker, if needed, is each team's conference record.
THE GOOD: J.R. Smith shook off a rough first half and came up big for the Knicks when they needed it most. He hit a 3-pointer with 1:04 to play to give the Knicks a 108-107 lead. The shot turned out to be the game-winner.
Milwaukee has always been a tough place for Smith to play. Entering Wednesday's game, Smith was shooting .354 from the field at the Bradley Center for his career (23-for-65). Only three active players have a lower career field-goal percentage in the building.
In the first half, it looked like Smith's Milwaukee nightmare would continue. He went 1-for-4, committed two bad fouls and the Knicks were minus-16 when he was on the floor, coughing up a 14-point lead.
But he wiped that away with a strong fourth quarter, scoring eight key points for New York, none bigger than the three he hit with a little over a minutes to play.
A STRONG SECOND SCORER: The Knicks have been looking for a second option on offense since Jeremy Lin and Amare Stoudemire went down. Tyson Chandler provided that on Wednesday. The Knicks center had 19 points and 10 rebounds to complement Carmelo Anthony's 32 points.
THE BAD: Anthony may have hurt suffered a wrist injury. In the first half, he winced and grabbed his right wrist before a trip to the line in the second quarter. He didn't appear to be greatly affected by the wrist.
He finished the half with 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting in the first half.
In the fourth, he was hit on the right wrist and slammed the ball in frustration, getting whistled for a technical foul. He walked off the floor flexing his hand. He suffered a left (non-shooting) wrist injury in January.
Nonetheless, Anthony was strong for the Knicks yet again. He scored his 32 points came on an efficient 13-for-26 night from the field. He also had 10 rebounds.
BOLD PLAY OF THE GAME: Landry Fields threw a perfect alley-oop that was slammed home by Chandler early in the first. Unlike most of the plays in the first half, it was somewhat contested by Milwaukee, making the finish that much more impressive.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Knicks may be in a fight for the final playoff spot with Milwaukee for the foreseeable future. They take on the Washington Wizards on Friday and then have games at home against Miami and Boston on Sunday and Tuesday, respectively. Milwaukee travels to Detroit on Friday, then faces Indiana at home and -- after three days off -- takes on Washington. Four of the Knicks' final eight games are against teams with records over .500. Same goes for the Bucks.
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