For the second time in a week, the Milwaukee Bucks took down the New York Knicks, this time without the same theatrics as they dominated them 103-89 after Kristaps Porzingis left with an injury later reported as a torn ACL. Milwaukee trailed just 25-26 after one, despite the Bucks shooting just 40.9% on the quarter. The Bucks fell behind by nine in the second, but rallied to take a 50-46 lead at half with Eric Bledsoe tying Giannis Antetokounmpo for the team lead in points at 12. Milwaukee bullied their way in transition in the third, dominating the Knicks in the quarter to go ahead by 13 heading into the final period. The Knicks never truly made a strong push in the fourth as the Bucks flummoxed them defensively forcing New York into 20 turnovers and winning out.
Three Main Observations
A Tale of Two Halves
Giannis may have finished the first half just 5/14 without getting many foul calls at the rim, but he seemed to calm down considerably once Porzingis left the game with an apparent knee injury. He started 3/10 and was able to use his last few possessions to get easy putbacks, maneuver into the lane smoothly and draw defenders to dish out to the perimeter. Still, he looked really out of sorts early on, missing passes to Bledsoe on the arc and generally seeming out of control for the first half. He appeared to have calmed down a bit though when the second half started, including parlaying plenty more transition opportunities into scores against a Knicks defense bereft of rim protection without Zinger. He still had a relatively inefficient night on the whole though with 23 points on 23 shots, with 11 rebounds and six assists to go along with it. Oh ya, he also dunked over a dude.
Eric Bledsoe has been playing far more within himself the last two games. Against the Nets he calmly took over the game late when Giannis went out. Tonight, he didn’t start chucking up shots or force things at the rim. Instead, he picked his spots when to attack the off-kilter defense of Trey Burke and spotting up around the arc to allow Giannis space to work within the arc. One also only need look at his failed attempt at getting by Burke in the second half, before beckoning for Marshall Plumlee to come to the high arc and set a ball screen. After that, he even managed to work the Knicks defenders towards him enough that patient Plumlee could slip to the hoop for an easy bucket. Ending with 23 points on just 11 shooting possessions and eight assists and five rebounds, those are the types of statistics Milwaukee needs if they want to finish out in the top four of the East.
Good Scoring/Strange Scoring
Milwaukee’s offensive explosion, particularly in the second half, stemmed particularly from their Rumpelstiltskinian ability to turn cheap Knicks turnovers into gold at the rim. They stripped what little talent the Knicks had remaining of the ball repeatedly, jumping passing lanes and turning 20 turnovers into 28 points on the night. On the flipside, they were once again proficient from the midrange tonight, a curious happening that also occurred in the Nets game where Brooklyn had just two midrange points. Milwaukee making (and taking) inefficient midrange shots remains not the best use of their offensive weapons, but they’re plenty useful when they’re going in as they beat the Knicks 24-16 in that category. You knew it was Milwaukee’s night when Jason Terry hit a stepback deep two. Hopefully some of the Thon and Jabari jumpers start to result in those guys drifting out to the 3-point line in future games though.
Bonus Bucks Bits
It’s really, really depressing that Porzingis tore his ACL. If any fanbase can sympathize with losing a star to such a horrific injury, it is Bucks fans.
An MRI confirmed that Kristaps Porzingis tore the ACL in his left knee, the Knicks say.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) February 7, 2018
John Henson missed tonight’s game with some hamstring issues, something viewers would’ve noticed him grabbing at after coming out of the game against the Nets. Although he returned that game, clearly it was still hobbling him. Thon Maker got the start in his stead while newly minted Buck Tyler Zeller was able to get clearance to play.
The most important revelation of the night: the pregame dance huddle lost all sense of order without its fearless leader Rashad Vaughn.
Sterling Brown didn't jump into the middle of the Bucks' post intros dance circle. Kinda had to be guided in. Turned kinda into a mosh pit from there. That's all I could see before the lights went out for Knicks intros.— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) February 7, 2018
Marshall Plumlee was the first big off the bench around the seven minute mark despite Zeller being available.
Jabari Parker immediately made his mark on the offensive end, flitting around the court for midrange jumper feeds and breaking out in transition for a calming slam. His ability to find space and in the halfcourt and get a shot off quickly feels like a refreshing jolt for a Bucks offense that can slog down at times.
Thon Maker effectively used his ability to space the floor thankfully in the second quarter after seeming to park himself inside the arc earlier that half. Giannis drove and fed him in the right corner which he coolly splashed home.
Milwaukee’s second half spurt came through a transition game where they feasted on the ineptitude of the Knicks once Porzingis had left the game. Their offense seems pretty listless without their star working the perimeter and elbows, even if his passing acumen isn’t stellar. It didn’t help that New York’s transition defense left plenty to be desired, as they stood almost no chance against the speed and terrifying power of Giannis and Jabari at the rim.
Sean Kilpatrick may have been channeling his inner Rashad Vaughn chucking persona tonight, but it certainly ended with better results as he looked confident working his way to the rim for a 5-5 performance from the free throw stripe. In addition, he managed to go 3-8 from the 3-point line and generally looked far more comfortable getting his own shot off.
Tyler Zeller had 0 points, two rebounds, three turnovers, two personal fouls and was a -8 in six minutes tonight. A Bucks debut we can all agree to forget.