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Knicks 90, Bucks 83 - Big comeback falls short in Bucks' opener

A disastrous first half put Milwaukee in a big hole, and a monster comeback in the second half wasn't enough to earn a season-opening win in Madison Square Garden.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

Box Score

In a sloppy season opener that saw a combined 46 (!) turnovers, Carmelo Anthony scored 19 points and added 10 rebounds to lead the New York Knicks to a shaky home win over the Milwaukee Bucks, 90-83. The Knicks blitzed the Bucks early and led by 25 points at the half, but Milwaukee stormed back in the third quarter behind Zaza Pachulia (13 points, 10 rebounds), Gary Neal (16 pts, 5 ast) and O.J. Mayo (13 pts, 5 reb, 3 ast). Milwaukee even managed to claim an 81-80 lead with less than five minutes remaining, but it didn't last long as Anthony, Tyson Chandler and the Knicks' pressuring defense led a 10-2 run to close the game.

Let's not sugarcoat things: the Bucks looked completely out of sorts through 24 minutes. The Knicks' defensive pressure prevented the Bucks from getting into their sets quickly, players shot at will regardless of clock situation or defender proximity, and the paint was regularly vacated on defense. It looked like nobody was really sure what they were supposed to do or where they were supposed to be, and the Knicks took advantage with a pile of transition points off Milwaukee's 15 first half turnovers.

Unfortunately injuries were once again a key part of the story for Milwaukee. Brandon Knight went down with a strained hamstring less than two minutes into the game, remaining on the ground for a few moments grabbing his leg before hobbling to the locker room. On any usual night Luke Ridnour would have stepped right in, but he was ruled out shortly before gametime with back spasms. That left Nate Wolters and Gary Neal to man the point with decidedly mixed results. Wolters in particular struggled to orchestrate any consistent offensive attack in the early going, but he settled down in the second half and was a key part of the Bucks' big comeback despite struggling from the field (3/12, 9 pts, 4 ast, 2 to).

After their disastrous first half, Milwaukee got things under control on offense to begin chipping away at the deficit early in the third. The ball started moving more deliberately, putting the Knicks' defense off balance and setting up more open spot-up looks (though there were still far too many mid-range jumpers). The Knicks also did their part to let Milwaukee back in the game, committing some uncharacteristic turnovers and missing a lot of interior shots while easing up on the defense that troubled the Bucks so greatly in the first half.

The Knicks' lead was trimmed to 74-64 by the end of the third, and the Bucks continued to capitalize on Knick mistakes in the fourth. Caron Butler's three pointer improbably tied the game at 80 with 4:39 to play, and John Henson went 1-2 at the line a few moments later to give Milwaukee a one-point lead. The Bucks even had a chance to extend their lead on a breakout shortly thereafter, but Butler was called for a debatable offensive foul trying to shield off a Knick defender when a layup seemed more likely. The Knicks then picked up their defensive pressure in the final minutes, forcing a pair of turnovers and allowing only three more shot attempts by the Bucks, one of which was blocked by Tyson Chandler.

While Pachulia might have been the Bucks' best player, Larry Sanders played only 12 minutes due to foul trouble, missing all three of his shot attempts and committing two turnovers. The news was better for Ersan Ilyasova, who came off the bench to hit 5/6 shots and finish with 10 points and three steals in 20 minutes. Rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo played just five first half minutes due to fouls as well, scoring his first NBA point on a free throw after drawing a fast break foul.

The Bucks have a day off before visiting the Celtics on Friday and then returning to Milwaukee for the home opener on Saturday night.