OAKLAND, Calif. - The Knicks' perimeter defense has been dismal all season, but when they needed a potential season-saving stop Sunday night, they got it.
With the Knicks up three in the closing seconds of the game, Warriors sharpshooter Stephen Curry got the ball behind the arc, but Raymond Felton forced him into a turnover and the Knicks scored a huge 89-84 victory at Oracle Arena.
The Knicks (31-43) are just one game behind Atlanta (31-41) for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with eight games left. "Every game right now for our team is important,'' Mike Woodson said. "We needed to beat a good team. To come in here and get this win says a lot for our team.''
The Knicks close out this five-game trip Monday night in Utah. A victory, plus a loss by the Hawks to the 76ers, would send them back to New York percentage points ahead of Atlanta. But the Hawks own the tiebreaker advantage based on conference record.
J.R. Smith had 21 points, 14 in the second quarter, when the Knicks outscored the Warriors 34-12 to take a 12-point halftime lead. Carmelo Anthony had 19. He had X-rays of his left hand after the game, and the Knicks said the results were negative.
Amar'e Stoudemire and Tim Hardaway Jr. had 15 points each. Stoudemire, who grabbed 13 rebounds, hit two foul shots to give the Knicks the lead for good with 2:06 left.
Curry finished with 32 points but missed a potential tying three-pointer with 30.9 seconds left and also threw up an ill-advised runner that missed badly with the score tied at 81-81.
The Knicks bounced back from a 24-point loss Friday in Phoenix and led by 10 in the waning seconds of the third quarter but needed a big play to preserve the win against the Warriors (45-28), who were missing David Lee (strained right hamstring) and Andrew Bogut (pelvis/groin contusion).
"When we come out and have games like we did against L.A. and Phoenix," Anthony said, "you look back and you're like, 'What the hell are we doing? Do we want it or not?' Tonight we showed that we want it."
With the score 87-84, the Warriors forced the Knicks into a 24- second violation when Andre Iguodala knocked the ball out of Anthony's hands as he went up for a shot with five seconds left.
Everyone knew Curry would get the ball and he did, coming around a screen. But as he rose up for a three-pointer, Felton closed in and contested it.
Curry passed it to Draymond Green, who wasn't expecting it, and it went off his hands. The Knicks' Shannon Brown chased the ball down with 1.9 seconds left and took off downcourt, and when Klay Thompson committed a clear-path foul, Brown hit two free throws to clinch it.
"He's the guy they're going to go to at the end of the game," Felton said of Curry. "It was my job to make sure he didn't get a shot.''
Curry buried two three-pointers to open the fourth to bring Golden State within 74-72. The Warriors had three chances to tie or take the lead but couldn't convert. The Knicks scored their first points on Stoudemire's follow dunk with 7:41 to go to make it 76-72.
Hardaway's three-pointer put the Knicks up 81-75 with 4:02 left, but Curry's three with 2:42 left -- the Warriors' first field goal since his three-pointer with 10 minutes to go -- tied it at 81.
After Smith's turnover, Curry misfired on a three, and after tracking down the rebound, he threw up an off-balance runner that missed. A loose-ball foul led to Stoudemire's two free throws for an 83-81 lead.
Anthony gave the Knicks a four-point lead with a jumper with 1:24 left, but Thompson drilled a three-pointer to make it 85-84 with 1:03 to play. Anthony's two free throws with 45.4 seconds left made it 87-84.
"I just hope that we can build on this," Anthony said. "Bring the same mindset and focus that we had, because if we don't go into Utah and get that one, [this win] is irrelevant."