* SCREAMS INAUDIBLY *
How about that, huh?
What began as an evenly balanced game saw the Milwaukee Bucks fall far behind and in a tough spot three quarters of the way through the evening. However, they’d mount an exciting come-back and would seal a classic win over the Knicks, 105-104.
For Milwaukee, the names worth noting were, as normal, Giannis Antetokounmpo with 27 points, 13 rebounds, and an absolute dagger of a buzzer-beater, and more surprisingly a Greg Monroe who was often the reliable offensive catalyst helping put a stop to New York runs with his 18 points (on 7-10 shooting), 9 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks.
Of course, Carmelo Anthony did everything he could to put his mark on the game as well. He had a very cold first half, but he made up for that and more in the second by contributing in every phase for New York. Scoring, rebounding, passing, etc. all combined to a 30 point, 11 rebound, and seven assist performance. His strong third and especially fourth quarters went a particularly long way towards nearly bringing the Knicks over the top.
The first quarter was as much a back-and-forth affair as you could hope for, with neither team well positioned to take a dominating lead.
Giannis came out swinging in the first as a majority of the early possessions went into his hands. His success rate wasn’t astounding, but his confidence was high enough to take a few jumpers, shoot the corner three, and even attempt an ill-advised fadeaway (that saw him fall flat on his back).
The interior defense anchored by John Henson went a long way to promoting New York’s early plan of utilizing their guard corps to execute a number of drive-and-kicks, and their ball movement, while sometimes bogged down in the hands of a guy like Brandon Jennings, was extensive enough to keep Milwaukee’s defense from truly locking in.
After the first 12 minutes, the Bucks would remain a hair ahead with a 27-25 lead thanks to 52.9% shooting, but the influence of a young man by the name of Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who would end the half with 11 points and four assists, helped the Knicks kept them at pace with Milwaukee when Carmelo Anthony decided to shoot a wondrous 2-8 from the floor (augmented by five points from the free throw line).
Things quickly devolved into a track meet as both teams acknowledged that they didn’t have much use for defensive stops. Miles Plumlee made a rare appearance that saw him miss his layups and turn the ball over in four minutes of action. Thrilling stuff.
At the end of the half, things were dead even at 52-52. The keys keeping New York largely in the thing and Milwaukee held back? An 47.1% mark from three for the Knicks compared to Milwaukee’s 35.7%, six offensive rebounds for New York, and a generally unexciting showing from the Bucks stars.
Jabari Parker, who had a quiet first half with a mere eight points, looked to be the focal point for Milwaukee coming out of the break. He willingly initiated his own offense from the perimeter attacking the basket many a time; unfortunately, he didn’t put the ball in the basket enough to lift the load off Giannis’s shoulders in any significant way.
A string of broken possessions ending in difficult shots or turnovers saw the Knicks go on a bit of a run fueled in large part by Carmelo Anthony shooting a large number of times as he worked his way towards 24 points through three. Even the threat of an open Anthony forced Milwaukee to adjust his direction, and that opened the floor up plenty for an easy Joakim Noah dunk and an open Derrick Rose jumper as the Knicks stretched their lead to 68-57 with 6:07 left in the third.
From there, the Bucks seemed to largely run out of answers with Giannis unable to do everything alone. When he wasn’t hitting, the combination of Monroe, Malcolm Brogdon, Jason Terry, and Mirza Teletovic were woefully not enough to hope to slow the Knicks down offensively. New York would be up 87-73 after three.
The Bucks needed a kick-start of sorts if they hoped to compete, and an opening Monroe block on a Lance Thomas dunk attempt and back-to-back three pointers from Jason Terry brought the deficit to a mere eight points.
From there, it was the Malcolm Brogdon-Greg Monroe connection talked about so much recently that saw Monroe converting a string of impressive attempts that set the table at 89-87 with 8:25 left.
Just as the Knicks once again started to pull away, a crazy Giannis dunk-from-the-elbow put a halt to their momentum:
Giannis with the steal and the dunk from the elbow. https://t.co/sNLXlSIDQB— RealGM (@RealGM) January 5, 2017
He would go to the line with 5:54 left to thin New York’s lead down to two.
After his points, however, the offense fell right back apart with multiple rushed shots and missed layups giving the Knicks another shot at extending out their lead.
That small gap would remain largely until the final possessions. Derrick Rose continued to have trouble converting at the rim, and that would set the table for Milwaukee to get back to a one point deficit.
Jabari Parker botched the easy rebound, but by luck, Milwaukee would get an immediate turnover for a final shot at the win. Jason Kidd would draw up a shot for Giannis Antetokounmpo, and I’ll just let Twitter take over from here:
GIANNIS STEPBACK GAMEWINNER IN MADISON SQUARE GARDEN— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) January 5, 2017
That's cold blooded. My god.— Ugh. (@StevevonHorn) January 5, 2017
!!!!!!!!!!!— Dustin Godsey (@dgodz) January 5, 2017
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO. GAME WINNER. MADISON SQUARE GARDEN. LET'S GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO#NBAVOTE FOREVER— BrewHoop.com (@brewhoop) January 5, 2017
Giannis fades from 18 and nothing but net. Bucks 105, Knicks 104. Wow.— cfgardner (@cf_gardner) January 5, 2017
And the offending shot:
Milwaukee wins, 105-104.
You’ve got to start with Jason Kidd going to Giannis for the final possession. We’ve seen him go that route multiple times this season with mixed results, but Giannis took Lance Thomas to work, stepped back what seemed to be 10 feet, and absolutely buried the game winner. Amazing.
Elsewhere, Milwaukee lost the rebounding battle and gave plenty of second-chance opportunities to the Knicks. Yes, they may not have converted at a high clip from those chances, but when the likes of Joakim Noah and Mindaugas Kuzminskas are grabbing rebounds over three to four Bucks, there’s a definite problem.
Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo were largely unimpressive in the first half, combining for merely 19 points. It was thanks to Michael Beasley and Greg Monroe, both willing to take and make a variety of open looks, that a below-average performance didn’t see the Bucks slink into a deep hole at the half. When bench help evaporated in the second half, it left Milwaukee out of options to easily climb back into things.
Milwaukee started off both halves struggling to hold onto the ball, turning it over multiple times when trying to thread the ball through impossible needles or forcing it into a ton of traffic. The Knicks didn’t exactly push the pace after a steal (thank goodness), and once a unit got into a rhythm, the errors seemed to subside. Still, that early abundance of possessions for New York went a long way to getting them into an offensive rhythm.
Tony Snell, for all the love he did get for his defensive against OKC Monday night, laid a heck of an egg this evening. With the Bucks struggling to open the floor, he shot a paltry 1-5 for three points. It isn’t necessary that he hits at an astronomical rate from distance, but it’s tough when he’s a complete non-factor on offense.
But, to end on a high note, just keep in mind that the Bucks clawed their way out of what was once a 16 point hole to come from behind and grab a signature win. That is the type of performance that keeps hopes alive, imaginations inspired, and more and more eyes glued to the Bucks.
Let’s see what they follow all that up with tomorrow night when the Knicks come to Milwaukee.