After a season featuring more losses than wins, that's all that separates the Knicks and the final postseason spot in the weak Eastern Conference standings.
J.R. Smith scored 21 points, Carmelo Anthony added 19 points and nine rebounds and the Knicks moved closer to a playoff seed by beating the undermanned Golden State Warriors 89-84 on Sunday night.
"We can't worry about Cleveland, Atlanta, Charlotte — none of them guys. We control our own thing," Anthony said. "If we play like tonight and just play hard and really lock in and focus on what we have to focus on, I think we'll be all right."
The Knicks outscored Golden State 34-12 in the second quarter to go ahead 56-44 at the half, and then held off a furious rally by Stephen Curry and the Warriors in the closing minutes.
Curry scored 32 points, including a tying 3-pointer with 2:42 remaining. But he missed his last two shots from long range and also had a pass stolen on Golden State's final possession.
New York (31-43) is a game behind fast-fading Atlanta, which has lost six straight, for the final playoff seed. And the Knicks can credit their defense for the latest victory, holding the streaky Warriors to 35.4 percent shooting.
"Our defense finally stepped up," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said.
With big men Andrew Bogut and David Lee sidelined with injuries, Curry tried to keep the Warriors close.
Curry connected on consecutive 3-pointers to slice New York's lead to 74-72 early in the fourth quarter, riling up the announced sellout crowd of 19,596 for the finishing stretch.
After the Knicks went ahead 81-75, Curry & Co. roared back again. The All-Star point guard capped a 6-0 spurt with a corner 3-pointer, dancing in place after tying the score with 2:42 to play.
Curry missed from long range his next time down, chasing the rebound but then forcing an errant shot while trying to draw a foul. Jermaine O'Neal fouled Amare Stoudemire, who made a pair of throws to put the Knicks in front.
New York forced Andre Iguodala into a miss before Anthony's pull-up jumper. Klay Thompson came back with a 3-pointer to bring the Warriors within one.
Anthony hit two free throws to put the Knicks up 87-84 with 45.4 seconds left. Curry's 3-point attempt over Anthony rimmed in-and-out, the Knicks grabbed the rebound but were called for a shot-clock violation.
Raymond Felton closed out fast on the final possession against Curry, who double-clutched and tried to pass in the air — only to have Shannon Brown steal the ball, make two free throws and seal a big victory for the Knicks.
"If I could do it over, I probably would've just tried to find a way to just shoot it regardless," said Curry, who shot 10-of-21 from the floor, including 6-of-12 from 3-point range.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson's team is suddenly looking like a tired and banged-up bunch at the most pivotal point of the season.
Thompson finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, and Iguodala added 12 points and five rebounds for the Warriors (45-28), who are in sixth place in the tight Western Conference race. Golden State is two games behind fifth-place Portland, but only two games ahead of ninth-place Dallas — and being out of the playoff picture entirely.
Home losses to teams with losing records are piling up as fast as injuries.
Bogut (bruised groin/pelvic) also is expected to miss Tuesday's game at Dallas and Wednesday's game at San Antonio — and possibly more. The Warriors are hopeful Lee (strained right hamstring) could return during the trip after missing his second consecutive game, though the injury has kept him from even practicing lately.
"We are developing and we certainly own the fact that we have lost some games that we should've won," Jackson said. "When you look on that floor that is a more than capable New York team that has underachieved this year, but they have talent."
The game still started Golden State's way.
Thompson and Curry each made two 3-pointers to help the Warriors go ahead by 12 points in the opening minutes. But the Knicks outscored Golden State 34-12 in the second quarter, including a 15-0 run with Anthony on the bench to go up 56-44 at the half.
It tied Golden State's lowest-scoring quarter of the season.
Hardaway finished with 15 points and Stoudemire had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Knicks, who are 2-2 on their five-game road trip, which ends Monday at Utah.