Wednesday night's match-up between the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks was about as rife with playoff implications as a game in mid-April can be. New York entered in the eighth seed, one full game above the ninth-seeded Bucks. If they won, they'd hold their ground and add a bit of padding on that final spot. If they lost, Milwaukee would move into a tie in the standings and hold a crucial tiebreaker in the season series. The two teams played a chippy, feisty, yet remarkably high-scoring game befitting such stakes, with the Knicks holding the edge (and therefore the playoff spot, for the time being) in the end, 111-107.
New York raced out to an early lead as the Bucks' defense allowed countless backdoor cuts and easy finishes by guys like Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Landry Fields, much to the chagrin of a grumpy Bradley Center crowd. The Knicks marched ahead by as many as 13 points, but faltered when the reserves took the floor. With Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin still missing, the bench offense was handed to the likes of Mike Bibby and Jared Jeffries, and they frittered away the lead in no time.
After their reserves -- especially notorious Knick-killer Mike Dunleavy -- got them back into it, Milwaukee's backcourt turned things up a notch. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis proved far too elusive for New York's backcourt, and their drives over screens got them and their teammates a ton of open looks. Ellis in particular shook free nearly every time down the floor and drilled a succession of pull-up jumpers whether or not he had a hand in his face.
Carmelo Anthony's efficient scoring was enough to keep New York within reach throughout the second half, but Milwaukee ran their lead up to eight points early in the fourth. After that, though, New York turned things around. Melo continued to thrive in isolation, Steve Novak came in and broke out of a slump with a couple big jumpers, and J.R. Smith -- who, once more, remained on the court despite some serious brainfarts -- rewarded Coach Mike Woodson for his trust by drilling a massive three-pointer to put the Knicks up one point with just over a minute to play. After that, New York finally got some stops against Ellis, Jennings, and Dunleavy and (despite a few offensive rebounds surrendered) held Milwaukee scoreless through the final minutes while sinking the necessary free throws at the other end.
New York's win gives them a two-game edge over Milwaukee, who fell to 28-30 with the loss. The season series between the two teams is now complete and even at 2-2, meaning any potential ties will be broken with division and conference standings instead of the head-to-head record.
For all of Wednesday's NBA box scores, check out SI.com's NBA scoreboard.