Jalen Brunson did all he could but the Knicks ultimately couldn’t hold off the Bucks in the In-Season Tournament opener, losing 110 to 105

The Knicks took on the Bucks tonight in the first game of the inaugural in-season tournament. There was much left to be desired in an ugly offensive game for both teams. New York was once again short-handed without RJ Barrett for the second game in a row and he was sorely missed as the Knicks lost their second game in a row 110-105 in what was a valiant effort from Jalen Brunson to keep his team in the game. 

The game had a clunky start as the Knicks opened with the first bucket but suddenly the Bucks scored nine straight points forcing Tom Thibodeau to burn an early timeout. The Knicks responded well to the breather as they stormed back and momentarily took the lead 25-21 heading into the second quarter. 

The Knicks seemed to be playing catch-up on the night as every time they inched closer the Bucks hit a timely three-pointer or made a small run to keep the Knicks off of their backs. The Bucks opened up the second quarter 5-5 from beyond the arc courtesy of Jae Crowder and Marjon Beauchamp to take back the lead. That jump-started the Bucks throughout the period as the Knicks could not respond and at the end of the half faced a 10-point deficit, 56-46 while the team was shooting a combined 32% from the field. 

The Knicks offense was abysmal and despite their difficulties scoring the ball, it was the Jalen Brunson show as he kept the Knicks within striking distance.  The defense, however, was on the entire night and no more than late in the fourth holding the Bucks without a field goal for more than six minutes. This excellent defense allowed the Knicks to cut Milwaukee’s lead to just four points with less than three minutes left in regulation. After a serendipitous play where Dame Lillard knocked the ball out of bounds while guarding Jalen Brunson, the Knicks took advantage and Julius Randle hit a clutch shot in the paint to cut the lead to just one. In the next possession, the Bucks once again coughed the ball up, and at the other end of the floor who else but Jalen Brunson knocked down his own clutch three-point shot to give the Knicks a two-point,103-102 lead with less than one minute left in regulation. It wouldn’t be enough though as it would soon become “Dame Time” as Lillard responded with his own three to give the Bucks back the lead right back. Brunson, unable to respond missed the next shot and Lillard once again provided another three points the hard way as he was able to convert on a foul shot after his made basket with the Bucks taking the lead for good. 

Jalen Brunson was spectacular, scoring 45 points in the loss on 17-30 from the field. It was once again a tough game for Julius Randle as he continued to work on those surgically repaired ankles. Despite another double-double where had he 16 points and 12 rebounds he shot a putrid 5-20 from the field. Mitchell Robinson had 15 rebounds but had zero points. Quentin Grimes broke for the first time offensively with 17 points including five made three-pointers. The bench was relatively quiet besides Immanuel Quickley who poured in 14 points. 

The Knicks are back in action back home in the Garden Monday night when they welcome the new-look Los Angeles Clippers. Tip-off is 7:30 PM. 

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