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Hughes hits for 39 as Knicks beat back Bucks

Mar 11, 2009 - 3:37 AM MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Larry Hughes scored a season-high 39 points and Nate Robinson added 32 as the New York Knicks secured a much-needed 120-112 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday in a game rife with playoff implications.

Hughes nailed five 3-pointers and added six rebounds and four steals for the Knicks, who snapped a six-game road losing streak and avoided a season sweep at the hands of the Bucks.

New York, which posted just its eighth road win this season, bounced back after losing consecutive games to the Charlotte Bobcats and New Jersey Nets - teams it is fighting with in a congested race for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.

"Had we lost, that would have been the exclamation point on the season," Knicks forward David Lee said. "Going for the playoffs is very important for us but, more importantly, getting better as a team."

The Knicks (26-37) are 2 1/2 games behind the idle Chicago Bulls (29-35), while the Bucks (30-37) fell one-half game back. The Indiana Pacers (28-38), Bobcats (28-35) and Nets (28-35) are between New York and Milwaukee in the standings.

Hughes had been the subject of boos at Madison Square Garden after coming over from the Bulls in a deal before last month's trade deadline. He will earn the respect of the fans if he continues to shoot the ball like he did against Milwaukee, hitting 13-of-20 from the field - including 5-of-8 from the arc.

"I do believe he can be a good basketball player," New York coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I don't know if he can get 39 every night, but he's a very good defensive player and he will hit some shots.

"He will be very positive for us the rest of this year and next year for sure."

The well-traveled guard hit perhaps the game's biggest shot, nailing a line-drive three from the left wing to make it 113-107 with 1:34 left.

The bucket forced Milwaukee's 20-second timeout, after which Ramon Sessions missed a short runner in the lane, leading to a pair of free throws from Lee that effectively sealed the game with under a minute to play.

Lee collected 19 points and 18 rebounds for the Knicks, who trailed by nine at halftime but outscored the Bucks, 64-47, in the second half.

"The second half, we finally got the intensity right and played really good defense," D'Antoni said. "We played hard the whole second half. I do think it's our overall energy on defense that translates into offense.

"We had 64 points in the second half because we picked it up and we ran."

Charlie Villanueva had 32 points and nine rebounds and Sessions added 22, six and nine assists for Milwaukee, which has lost four of five.

"We just have to keep playing hard," Bucks forward Richard Jefferson said. "They just outplayed us. We just didn't get the stops when we needed to and they made the plays."