NEW YORK (AP) — Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points, delivering his highest total in two months without the injured Amare Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin, and the New York Knicks beat the Milwaukee Bucks 89-80 on Monday night to increase their lead for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth.
Shortly after learning Stoudemire was lost indefinitely with a bulging disk in his back, the Knicks opened a 2 1/2-game lead over the Bucks and prevented Milwaukee from winning the season series and clinching the tiebreaker if they finish with the same record.
Baron Davis scored 13 points in his first start in place of Lin, who has a sore right knee. Tyson Chandler also had 13 and Iman Shumpert 11 as the Knicks overcame the absences of their second- and third-leading scorers.
But they won this one with defense, limiting Milwaukee to 36.5 percent shooting and containing high-scoring guards Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Jennings shot 6 of 22 for 15 points, and Ellis made only two of 14 shots for four points.
Mike Dunleavy scored 26 points for the Bucks, but missed all three shots in a scoreless fourth quarter after he was 10 of 11 through three.
The Knicks won for the seventh time in eight games, while Milwaukee lost for only the third time in its last 10. The Bucks had won five straight road games and suffered a rare loss at Madison Square Garden, where they had won six of seven.
Anthony hadn’t scored this many since netting 35 points on Jan. 20 in a loss to the Bucks. But he said before the game he needed to step it up a notch after learning that Stoudemire would be sidelined.
Stoudemire left the Knicks’ victory over Detroit on Saturday after saying his back tightened up. An MRI on Monday afternoon revealed the injury, which the Knicks said won’t require surgery. He had led them in scoring in four straight games, and the Knicks remember from their playoff loss to Boston last year how tough it is without Stoudemire.
It’ll be easier if they keep defending like this.
The Knicks outscored the Bucks 21-12 in the third quarter to take the lead despite shooting just 3 of 21 from the field. They went 15 of 18 from the free throw line while Milwaukee didn’t attempt one.
New York pushed it to 84-74 on JR Smith’s 3-pointer with 4:38 remaining, and after Milwaukee scored six in a row, Shumpert’s 3-poiner with 2:09 to go put it away at 87-80.
The Bucks started 3 of 15 as the Knicks raced to a 20-10 lead before Dunleavy checked in. He scored 14 points in the final 3:42, making all five shots, as Milwaukee trimmed it to 30-26.
Dunleavy fueled a 12-0 burst in the second quarter with 10 points as Milwaukee turned a three-point deficit into a 49-40 advantage on his layup with 3:02 to go. He had 24 points on 9-of-10 shooting in just 13 minutes as the Bucks took a 52-47 lead into halftime.
Notes: Bucks F Carlos Delfino played just 13 minutes before leaving with an injured right groin. … The teams meet again in Milwaukee on April 11. … Knicks interim coach Mike Woodson was coaching his 500th NBA game. He is 213-287.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.