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Call it gritty, ugly, whatever — Knicks win over Bucks means playoffs (probably)

Apr 11, 2012, 11:36 PM EDT

Carmelo Anthony AP

Early on Wednesday night it was all Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks offense, it was pretty. But against a feisty Bucks team you knew that wasn’t going to be enough. With these Knicks nothing comes easy. They were going to need defense. They were going to need someone to step up. They were going to need some grit.

How about a key J.R. Smith three and some big stops late with even Anthony rotating out to contest shots?

That was enough. The Knicks gutted out a hard fought 111-107 win in Milwaukee that puts them two full games up on the Bucks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East with just eight games to play.

Nothing is set in stone yet, but it’s going to be very hard for the Bucks to make up two games in two weeks. Knicks fans can now start trying to convince themselves they have any chance against the Derrick Rose and the Bulls.

The night that ended so ugly (or scrappy, if you prefer) started out so pretty for the Knicks and their fans

On the second night of a back-to-back the Knicks came out on fire — they hit eight of their first nine shots to open the game (Tyson Chandler had seven fast points on his way to 19 points on 6-for-6 shooting). The Knicks were getting all their points going to the rim and following a 17-4 run scored 36 points (28 points in the paint) in the first quarter on 77 percent shooting. They moved the ball well and got clean looks all quarter long. They had a double-digit lead.

A lead that evaporated like a drop of water in the Sahara. The Bucks went on run right at the start of the second quarter and behind Monta Ellis, who had 21 on 12 shots in the first half, while Mike Dunleavy had 16 off the bench at the break. At the half it was 62-62.

The second half wasn’t nearly as fast paced nor did it feature great shooting. But it was close.

The game was tied at 99-99 with 3:3o left and after three points from Ekpe Udoh off the bench kept it close another three from Ellis put the Bucks up 105-103 with 1:45 left. A road loss and a possibility of missing the playoffs was looming over the Knicks. Anthony — who finished with 32 points on the night — tied it with a jumper, but then Luc Richard Mbah a Moute answered with one of his own to keep the Bucks up two.

That’s when the gutty Knicks showed up. Smith hit a three to give the Knicks the lead. Then on their possession the Bucks scrapped on the offensive boards and three shots — an Ellis eight footer, a Dunleavy three and then a Dunleavy 18-footer — and missed them all. The Knicks scrambled and contested on defense for Mike Woodson like they never did for Mike D’Antoni. It was enough. Steve Novak and Iman Shumpert hit some free throws in the final 20 seconds when the Bucks had to foul and the Knicks got the win.

It wasn’t pretty at the end, but playoff teams win ugly games. The Knicks — despite a roller coaster season, a fired coach, the coming and going of Linsanity, and Amare Stoudemire being injured down the stretch — are a playoff team. They need to close out the season like they closed out this game, but they are a playoff team. They have played like it for Woodson, it may not have been the pretty ball that they envisioned when D’Antoni was hired but it worked. They earned it.

They should celebrate it and worry about the matchups later.

  1. seattlesuperchronic - Apr 12, 2012 at 12:15 AM

    Jeremy Lin was a fun story, too bad he’s busted up right now. I hope when Stoudamire gets back the Knicks get better, but who knows, weird season for those goofballs.

  2. abchome - Apr 12, 2012 at 12:21 AM

    I knew they are (just) a playoff team when some considered they are a title contender with Chandler. And I knew they are (still) a playoff team when they lost 7 or 8 straight before/during Linsanity. They are a playoff team, no more and no less.

  3. passerby23 - Apr 12, 2012 at 12:31 AM

    Would prefer to see a NY-MIA series in the first round, just like old times. I think that’s a much better matchup for New York than Chicago is.

  4. ezmagic - Apr 12, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    Miami or Chicago will take them out in 5 games… Proof that the 2 superstar team ups aren’t working. Miami is beatable but they play much better D than NY does. It makes me sick to say that being a Magic fan..

    • aboogy123456 - Apr 12, 2012 at 1:10 PM

      how does that prove 2 superstar teams don’t work? there’s a big difference if you have wade and lebron, than if you have melo and stoudemire. the knicks have two superstars not even in the top ten in the league. it matters who you have on your team, not just the number of stars.

  5. Mr. Wright 212 - Apr 12, 2012 at 1:12 AM

    The refs tried their DAMNEDEST to give the Bucks with that game. Donaghy-level officiating in their favor tonight.

    • 40easter - Apr 12, 2012 at 10:08 AM

      Glad its not just me. Knicks gotta beat teams and the refs to get a win….its brutal. Reminds me of the 1st round of the playoffs last year, when the refs basically handed the series to Boston. ….. Its f*ckin infuriating.

  6. inthearex - Apr 12, 2012 at 6:59 AM

    What makes everyone so sure about the bulls walking thru the Knicks, or anyone else in the east for that matter?

  7. nokoolaidcowboy - Apr 12, 2012 at 9:16 AM

    Would like to see them put Harrelson more into the mix. Especially as a wide, defensive body under the paint so Chandler can get a breather and calm down at times.

  8. allball23 - Apr 12, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    The knicks have a shot at upsetting the bulls. If they keep playing D. Get amare back healthy they have enough where they can can possibly get past them.

  9. spaceghost13 - Apr 12, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    That was a must win game. Knick fans can sigh a breath of relief.

  10. premiumpit - Apr 12, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    LETS GOOOOOOO KNICKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I Dont think they r gonna go far in the playoffs…But u gotta watch cause u never know…

  11. dysraw1 - Apr 12, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    thats the thing about getting into a new season, you never know whats going to happen. new season new life thats why you fight to get there.even though Melo had 32pts it came more in the flow, rather than everybody else acting like he’s the only 1 who could score on this team. note; Novak had better get some moves to the basket if he wants to stick in this league

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