The New York Knicks beat the Milwaukee Bucks 89-80 without injured starters Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire to improve their chances of making the National Basketball Association playoffs.
Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points, his most since Jan. 20, and the Knicks held the Bucks to 28 second-half points at Madison Square Garden to erase a five-point halftime deficit.
The Knicks improved their record to 25-25 and now lead the Bucks (22-27) by 2 1/2 games for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The top eight teams in the conference qualify for the postseason and a loss last night would have left the Knicks a half-game ahead of Milwaukee.
“It was a big game,” Anthony, who added 12 rebounds, said in a televised on-court interview. “It was a must-win for us. That was our focus and mentality. Two of our soldiers were out and we held it down.”
Stoudemire is out indefinitely with a bulging disc in his lower back, while Lin sat out last night with a sore left knee.
Stoudemire, who’s averaging 17.6 points and 8.0 rebounds, won’t require surgery, though it’s not known when he’ll be able to return to the lineup. Lin, who’s averaging 14.6 points and 6.1 assists at point guard, said he’s day-to-day.
“I want to make sure when I come back I’m 100 percent,” Lin told reporters before the game.
The Knicks trailed the Bucks 52-47 at halftime as Mike Dunleavy scored 24 first-half points for Milwaukee.
Dunleavy Closed Down
New York then outscored Milwaukee 21-12 in the third quarter and held the Bucks to 16 points in the fourth quarter. Dunleavy had two points in the second half.
“Twenty-four points in the first half was too much for a guy coming off the bench,” said Anthony, who re-aggravated a groin injury during the win. “We keyed in on him, we made some minor adjustments and buckled down defensively.”
The Knicks are now 7-1 since Mike D’Antoni resigned as coach and was replaced by Mike Woodson.
“We just kept grinding and grinding and getting defensive stops,” Woodson said. “They answered the bell big time.”
The Miami Heat lost 105-90 at the Indiana Pacers last night, their second straight defeat by more than 10 points. It was the fourth loss in eight games for the Heat (35-13), who failed to gain ground on Chicago atop the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls, without reigning Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose, fell to 40-11 with a 108-91 home loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Paul Pierce scored a season-high 36 points as the Boston Celtics (2111Q) (27-22) beat the Charlotte Bobcats 102-95 to tie the Philadelphia 76ers for first place in the Atlantic Division.
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