How quickly elation fades in the face of a flipped script, and tonight’s fourth-quarter collapse by Milwaukee played out like an inversion of Wednesday’s result as the Knicks hit clutch shots down the stretch to win 116-111.
Milwaukee spurted ahead time and again throughout the contest, but continually gave up big runs to the Knicks to start quarters that rapidly erased their leads. Milwaukee went into the fourth quarter up 13, but the Knicks evened the score within the first few minutes. The Bucks came back with enough shots of their own to maintain a two-point lead with a minute and a half to go.
Carmelo Anthony nailed what would be the game-winning three-pointer soon after, and the Bucks crumpled late as New York outscored them 33-15 in the fourth. Giannis and Jabari mustered only three points combined in the final period.
Giannis played a sterling first half, and wound up with 25 points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals and five blocks on the night, albeit with 9-21 shooting and hesitant play in the third and fourth quarters. Jabari Parker managed 25 points on 10-18 shooting (4-6 from three) to go with four rebounds and five assists, while Greg Monroe ate up Kyle O’Quinn all night en route to 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
For New York, Carmelo Anthony had 26 points, six rebounds and ten assists, including 4-5 from deep while Kristaps Porzingis added 24 points, six rebounds and three blocks on 9-14 shooting. The duo starred for New York all night, despite Porzingis fouling out of the game late.
The high level statistics were remarkably similar between the two teams, as Milwaukee shot 50% to New York’s 49%, 55% from deep to the Knicks’ 57% and Milwaukee went 21-28 from the line with New York at 21-27. The Knicks actually outscored the Bucks on fast break points though, 19-14, and wound up with 16 turnovers after having 13 at halftime. That, combined with Milwaukee’s 10 turnovers in the second half and poor offensive execution late, contributed to the team buckling down the stretch.
In an unsurprising start for Bucks’ fans, Milwaukee fell down 9-0 early as Courtney Lee rocked home two quick threes. Luckily, the Bucks stayed true to form and stormed back to re-take the lead from the Knicks. Jabari hit a three to get Milwaukee on the board, and Giannis started a personal 11-0 run with a three-pointer, stepback jumper and slam off a dish from Monroe to put Milwaukee ahead 19-13.
The Knicks worked their way back behind perfect shooting from deep, but Jabari nailed his second three-pointer of the quarter to give Milwaukee the lead again at 28-27. Mirza Teletovic nailed a deep fadeaway three-pointer over Porzingis in the geopolitical on-court tussle everyone was waiting for, and the quarter ended at 33-32 Knicks. Giannis had 11, Parker netted 10 and both Rose and Courtney Lee led the Knicks with six each. Both teams were a perfect 5-5 from the three-point line in the quarter.
Giannis re-entered to start the second, and his ongoing duel with Porzingis graduated from subtle brinksmanship to a genuine bombing barrage between the two. Giannis received a transition pass from Terry for a dunk, Porzingis answered with a quick three and Giannis ended the bout with his own three as Milwaukee went up 41-36. The Bucks domination continued, as Telly, Beasley, Monroe and Giannis took turns wailing the interior of the Knicks defense en route to a 21-4 run that put Milwaukee ahead 54-38 at the midpoint of the second.
The Knicks re-gifted the ball to Milwaukee over and over, finishing with 11 turnovers for the quarter as the Bucks continued to maintain their lead. Giannis felt so protective of the basket tonight, he even used a double-jump ability to leap to the rafters and snag this ball from Kyle O’Quinn.
Milwaukee went into the half leading 65-53, shooting 55% and 8-10 from beyond the arc. The Knicks shot a respectable 50%, and were 7-11 (64%) from deep, but their perpetual ball bungling gave Milwaukee 12 points off of 13 turnovers.
Giannis looked luminous in the national spotlight early, managing 16 points on 5-8 shooting to go with three rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Jabari had an efficient 12 points and team-leading four assists, with Mirza at 11 points on a perfect 3-3 from deep. The Knicks were a more somber story, with Derrick Rose and Lance Thomas leading the team with 10 points. Melo notched eight and Porzingis had nine, but he was a team-worst minus-20 in the first half.
The Knickerbockers started the second half with their first streak of competency since the game’s opening minutes, as two early Porzingis buckets catalyzed a 15-4 run for New York that finished with a Porzingis slam. Parker nailed another deep jumper in response, followed by a difficult fadeaway over Carmelo and the Bucks pantsed the Knicks with a 11-0 run in less than two minutes to get the lead back, 80-68, after a Giannis alley-oop.
The Knicks started making shots again, but their defense turned into sieves. The Bucks cut to the basket continually against the hapless “rim protection” of Kyle O’Quinn. As the Bucks subs started trickling in to share the court with Jabari, Parker turned a flip pass from Terry into a dunk so ferocious I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that rim wronged his family in an unforgivable manner.
Milwaukee maintained a 96-83 lead as the third quarter concluded with Jabari Parker catapulting to 25 points on the night. New York responded to start the fourth with a 12-0 run, including four points by the human cornstalk, Ron Baker. Milwaukee didn’t score a point until Greg Monroe hit a layup over Kyle O’Quinn three minutes in to make it 98-95.
As was the case to this point, the Bucks took the Knicks run, crumpled it up, tossed it in the trash and answered with a run of their own. After the Knicks cut the lead to one on a pair of Melo free throws, Tony Snell got back-to-back threes to drop to return a more comfortable 104-97 lead for the Bucks.
Kristaps Porzingis lived up to his “unicorn” moniker on the next sequence, nailing a three-pointer, blocking two Giannis attempts at the rim and then hitting a pull-up three so deep it prompted an audible, “oh no,” from Coach Doug Collins on the telecast. At 104-103, Giannis answered with a cool pull-up jumper and free throw, but Joakim Noah had an uncharacteristic yam on Giannis on the other end.
A few minutes later, the most significant sequence of the game to that point occurred with Carmelo driving to the hoop and the Knicks down 108-109. Giannis blocked his attempt that would’ve given the Knicks their first lead since early in the second quarter, and Giannis proceeded to draw Porzingis’ sixth foul on the other end, sending him packing for the night in addition to Noah’s earlier exit after his sixth foul.
Malcolm Brogdon got Milwaukee a 111-108 lead, but Carmelo answered several plays later with a three-pointer that finally gave the Knicks the lead. The ensuing play was a near-replay of the last-second sequence in New York, with Giannis iso’d on Lance Thomas. This time, Giannis fumbled the ball and Courtney Lee hit a layup in transition to give New York a 114-111 lead with 27 seconds left.
The Bucks struggled on the inbounds, narrowly avoiding a five-second call and barely getting the ball to Mirza Teletovic, who promptly tried an ill-advised, contested step-back three-pointer. The Knicks hit two free throws on the other end, and after an offensive goaltending call on Giannis, Milwaukee conceded the loss, 116-111.
- The Kristaps Porzingis vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo matchup didn’t disappoint early on. Porzingis is inhumanly shifty for a guy with his mass, and he shook Giannis badly on a pump fake, dream shake imitation and quick jab-step in the first quarter to get open looks. Giannis responded with his own special attributes, recovering to block one of those fakes (granted it was a foul), but then attacked Porzingis in transition and Kristaps couldn’t recover quickly enough. Seeing those two use their unique athletic gifts, unbridled athleticism for Giannis and precision in a plus-size man for Porzingis, makes for a kind of match-up that only bodes well for the league’s future.
- Greg Monroe had a slick drive to the hoop and kickout to nobody on the perimeter in the first quarter. The ball went directly into the stands, narrowly avoiding a black-shirted server standing courtside to provide nachos and beverages. The fact it did miss does indicate Moose could use a little work on his pinpoint passing, so I fully expect the Bucks to work that into their regular practice routine.
This is why you don't wear black on your home court https://t.co/ukcyEEs8E8— Seth Rosenthal (@seth_rosenthal) January 7, 2017
- The Bucks started out the night a perfect 8-8 from beyond the three-point arc. Most of them were pretty good looks, the only anomalies were probably Giannis hitting his first two of the game. Michael Beasley missed the team’s first three of the night despite a heaping helping of space around him.
- Jason Terry tried a fake Rajon Rondo backwards pass to school his defender in transition and get to the hoop. Instead, his defender didn’t move an inch, and no Bucks were close enough to actually even catch the ball. Terry leaped into the air, and was bailed out by a streaking Giannis who dunked it home. Terry celebrated a subsequent travel by the Knicks on the other end.
- I’m pretty sure Jason Terry is one of those wacky tube men.
- MIlwaukee hated the start of quarters tonight. They looked sluggish to start the first, third and fourth quarters, letting the Knicks back into the game instead of landing a final blow. They’ve been able to put away opponents at home lately, burying them early and never losing momentum for the remainder of the contest. That wasn’t the case tonight:
Start of 1st: 9-0 Knicks run— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) January 7, 2017
Start of 3rd: 15-4 Knicks run
Start of 4th: 12-0 Knicks run
- Giannis was particularly quiet in the second half tonight. I’m not sure if Porzingis’ length bothered him - he was blocked late by the Zinger twice down low - but it felt like his usual aggressive attitude was nonexistent down the stretch tonight. He was gangbusters in the second when he got out in transition, but the Knicks forced the Bucks into halfcourt sets down the stretch and they couldn’t score consistently unless Kyle O’Quinn was on the floor. Maybe he was flustered by going against the surprisingly agile Porzingis, but it felt peculiar for a player fresh off a game-winning shot.
- This is another tough loss against a reeling Eastern Conference opponent, but Milwaukee has to regroup for Sunday’s game against the Wizards and maintain some of the momentum they built up over the last week. The Bucks’ young guys have discussed making opponents start to respect them by playing hard every night and showing that they’re not a gimme on anyone’s schedule anymore. That’s a hard-earned credibility, and a statement sure to be tested with another vital game against an Eastern conference team.