Buck Yeah: Knicks Find a Way in Milwaukee

Knicks come back in Milwaukee to secure hold on playoff spot

By Josh Alper
|  Thursday, Apr 12, 2012  |  Updated 7:22 AM EDT
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Linsanity in PHOTOS

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J.R. stood for Just Right on Wednesday night.

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It's fitting that J.R. Smith hit the biggest shot of the night in Milwaukee.

Smith's game is one best watched with a hand over your face and a slight spread of your fingers to glimpse what's unfolding on the court since there's no better way to watch something that mostly terrifies you while also holding onto the chance that it could wind up thrilling you.

His long stretches of inconceivable play are occasionally saved by the kind of play that makes you shake your head in wonder.

That's kinda the way this whole Knicks team plays, come to think of it, so Smith making the biggest play on the biggest night of the season makes sense. They can be so brilliant -- see the opening eight minutes on Wednesday night -- and so hideous -- just about everything until the final eight minutes -- and the only way to figure out which it is to peek out from behind your fingers to see.

If you did that on Wednesday night, you saw Smith sink a three-pointer with 1:04 to play that erased the last remnants of an eight-point Milwaukee lead and put the Knicks up 108-107 on their way to a 111-107 victory. The win gives them a two-game lead on the Bucks for the final playoff spot and a good shot at earning the tiebreaker over the Bucks for that spot, making it a good deal more likely that this baffling, exciting, frustrating and utterly compelling Knicks season will continue into the postseason.

Smith's contributions to that outcome went beyond the final three-pointer as he scored eight points in the final three minutes after another night that made you wonder if Smith has a short memory or simply no shame when it comes to bricking shots. On most nights, Smith gains some retribution with his defensive work, but he was off his game on that end on Wednesday and was generally stinking up the joint every which way before he suddenly wasn't.

You could give Mike Woodson credit for sticking with Smith through thick and thin, but that feels overly gracious since its obvious Smith's value comes from an ability to create his own shot (not a good shot, necessarily, but a shot all the same) on a team without a point guard. The coach should get some credit for the play he drew up on the winner, though. 

Woodson had Smith run the pick-and-roll with Carmelo Anthony, who did his thing again with 32 points on 26 shots that probably should have been more with an officiating crew that recognized fouls committed by players in Milwaukee uniforms. The Bucks defense swarmed Anthony because they were convinced he'd get the shot, but it was an open Smith look and he buried it.

From there, the Bucks missed five shots which gives us a moment for the obligatory mention of how Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert have made this Knicks team one that wins because they are able to defend. This wasn't their best night over the long haul, but they clamped down in the final minutes and gave the offense a chance to bail this thing out.

Smith was able to do that with a series of plays that made observers go from cringing to jumping for joy in the blink of an eye. That story feels pretty familiar for this Knicks team and it looks like we're going to get some extra chances to enjoy it.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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