The Knicks hope they survived two scares Friday night.
They overcame a lackluster first half and stormed back from a 12-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Bucks, 96-86, at the Garden for their third straight victory, moving within a half-game of the Heat for the Eastern Conference lead.
More important for the long run, the Knicks held their collective breath when point guard Raymond Felton banged his once-broken right pinkie on Samuel Dalembert's knee while fighting for a rebound late in the third quarter.
Felton, who missed 12 games while the pinkie healed, doubled over in pain and later wore a towel over his head on the bench. But he returned to the game with 8:10 left in the fourth and even hit a three-pointer with 4:58 remaining to give the Knicks a 10-point lead as they took command of the game.
Felton finished with 14 points and eight assists. He said post-game X-rays were negative.
"He's tough,'' Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "Ray's been tough for us all season.''
Of Felton getting hit again on the finger, Woodson said: "That's going to be [a concern] the rest of the way out. We've just got to make sure that he doesn't break it or reinjure it.''
Felton said it was the first time in the four games since he returned that he has gotten hit the way he did Friday night.
"Just got to deal with it," he said. "I knew this day was going to come when I really got hit on it really hard and the pain was going to be very, very painful. But I'm all right. It's just something I've got to deal with."
Felton wears a pad on the finger during games. And he is grateful for that.
"If I didn't have that pad, there's no telling what might have happened," he said. "I might have broken it. Luckily I had that pad on it, so just a lot of pain. Still hurts right now. Something I've got to deal with. Put some ice on it and do my thing."
The Knicks held the Bucks to 13 points in the fourth quarter, 33 in the second half and 58 in the final three quarters. But they didn't take their first lead of the second half until J.R. Smith's three-pointer with 2:04 left in the third quarter made it 71-70.
The Knicks led 74-73 going into the fourth quarter and pulled away behind Carmelo Anthony (25 points, eight rebounds, six assists), Tyson Chandler (nine points, season-high 20 rebounds), Amar'e Stoudemire (17 points, seven rebounds) and Smith (17 points).
Anthony scored at least 20 points for the 31st consecutive game, extending his franchise record.
After missing one game because of a sore back, Jason Kidd started and scored three points in 23:45. The Knicks (29-15) host Sacramento Saturday night and Detroit on Monday to conclude a five-game homestand against beatable opponents.
The Knicks were 6-6 when Felton was out. These are important games as they try to mesh, with Stoudemire, Felton, Kidd and Iman Shumpert having returned from injuries. They don't need to have Felton miss more time.
Stoudemire had another strong outing. He is averaging 16.6 points and shooting 63.9 percent in his last seven games.