Knicks and Bucks square off in key Eastern Conference battle

The Milwaukee Bucks can improve their playoff status with a win tonight over the New York Knicks at the Bradley Center.

That's easier said than done for a Milwaukee squad on the outside looking in on a postseason spot. The Bucks are one game behind the Knicks for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference and two games in back of Philadelphia for the seventh seed.

Milwaukee will close out a five-game homestand Wednesday and had a four-game winning streak come to an end with Monday's 109-89 setback to Oklahoma City. Ersan Ilyasova had 18 points and Monta Ellis scored just nine on 3 of 12 shooting from the field.

"You're not going to play uphill against the Thunder and steal too many games," Bucks head coach Scott Skiles said.

Drew Gooden and Brandon Jennings scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, in a losing cause. The Bucks are 15-13 as the host this season and had won six of seven games.

New York is coming off last night's 98-86 loss at Chicago, as Carmelo Anthony scored 29 points one game after dropping 43 on the Bulls in Sunday's victory at Madison Square Garden.

"We didn't finish the first quarter well, and it carried into the second quarter," Knicks interim coach Mike Woodson said. "It's just one of those games. Offensively we didn't have it."

Tyson Chandler finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds, while J.R. Smith netted 14 points for the Knicks, who had won 11 of 14 games and sit just a game ahead of Milwaukee and a game behind Philadelphia in the East standings.

After visiting the Bucks, New York will return to the Big Apple for three games versus Washington, Miami and Boston. The Knicks, who are 10-18 as the guest, fell to four games behind the Celtics for the Atlantic Division lead after Boston beat the Heat on Tuesday.

New York has lost two of three matchups with Milwaukee this season and 12 of the past 15 meetings overall. The Knicks are winless in four straight and six of seven trips to Brew City.