The Knicks are one-and-done in the first In-Season Tournament Knockout Rounds after letting the Bucks run away with a win.
The New York Knicks (12-8) dropped their quarterfinal game against the Milwaukee Bucks (15-6) on the road by a final score of 146-122. Some unbelievable shooting from the Bucks coupled with some uncharacteristically poor defense from the Knicks led to the blowout and New York’s subsequent elimination from the In-Season Tournament.
The Knicks faced off with the Bucks back in November in an IST game but almost no one aside from Jalen Brunson showed up for the game. Brunson went off for 45 points in that one, keeping New York in the contest for as long as possible despite a no-show performance from Julius Randle and an all-around great game from the entire Milwaukee team.
The first quarter of tonight’s game began with great defense from the Knicks, who managed to put pressure on the ball all over the court. Brunson struck first with a drive and tough shot, looking to continue his barrage on Fiserv Forum from last month. Their offense looked much smoother than it was in that previous game, as well, with the ball movement opening up shots for Randle and RJ Barrett, as well.
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But Milwaukee responded with brute strength in the paint behind Giannis Antetokounmpo. The scoring was back and forth, and it became clear that it would be a big game from Antetokounmpo and one that would require a big response from Brunson and Randle. Brunson was missing a lot of shots he would typically make to start the quarter, though, which was making it hard to keep pace with the Bucks. AJ Green was lights out for Milwaukee and hit three long-range shots for the team in the first alone. But, New York was only down one heading into the second even with their three-point shooting low and with Brunson’s slump throughout the period.
Defense had to be a point of emphasis for the Knicks entering the second after giving up 37 points in the first. The Bucks were letting a lot go on the defensive end as well, but without the normal contribution from Brunson so far in the contest, New York had to actually get some stops to regain the lead. The Knicks also had to start hitting some long shots. They had only attempted four through the first quarter and some of the second, while the Bucks had attempted 11 and hit eight over that same span. Immanuel Quickley hit the team’s first three with about eight minutes left in the second frame, and they would need a lot more of that to keep pace with Milwaukee.
Speaking of pace, it was vacillating with neither team really caring to get a stop. Randle stayed hot in the second and was able to keep the Knicks engaged on offense in the high-scoring game. Thanks to some circus plays from Randle and Brunson to finish the half, New York was only down three in a 75-72 game through two.
Both teams had to actually play defense in the second half to punch their ticket to Las Vegas for the IST semifinals. The first few minutes of the third period did not offer much confidence that either team would do that. New York looked flat, continuing a theme of them coming out after the first half without much to offer in the way of adjustments. Brunson was still struggling on offense with Malik Beasley glued to him, while no other Knicks outside of Randle were looking to score.
On the flip side, the Bucks were starting to pile it on the Knicks as their defense continued to be porous. Antetokounmpo was getting to the rim with ease, either drawing a foul along the way or finishing with force. With deficiencies of ball movement, three-point shooting and defense finally catching up to New York, the team was starting to lose its footing against a flurry of Milwaukee shooting. The lead had ballooned to 16 headed into the fourth.
A Josh Hart triple opened the fourth up for the Knicks, a desperately needed shot as the team looked lost on offense throughout the entire third. He, Barrett and Donte DiVincenzo sparked the team and helped them climb back to within nine early in the quarter. The Bucks responded, as they had all night, and made the Knicks pay for not grabbing boards. They got the lead back up to 14, instilling some doubt that New York could pull this one out. Milwaukee just kept hitting shot after shot while New York could not buy a bucket despite getting some good open looks. The lead was just never something the Knicks could make a dent in, and they were eliminated from the tournament in a blowout on the road.
Randle was lights out, scoring 41 points on 14-19 shooting. He also grabbed six boards and dished out five assists. Brunson finished with 24 points, six assists, three boards and one steal. Barrett had 23 points, eight rebounds and an assist, while Mitchell Robinson ended his night four rebounds, two points, three assists and two steals. Quentin Grimes disappointed to the tune of one board, one steal and one (missed) shot attempt.
From the bench, Hart had 11 points, four rebounds, three steals and an assist while DiVincenzo notched seven points and three assists. Quickley recorded seven points, three assists and a steal. Isaiah Hartenstein recorded four points, seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Deuce McBride had three points in garbage time.