The Knicks were overwhelmed and overmatched by All-Star Game MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in the first game of the second half of the season.
The Milwaukee Bucks (23-14) defeated the New York Knicks (19-19) by a final score of 134-101. For Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with a triple-double: 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, while Bryn Forbes finished with 21 points and seven made threes. For the Knicks, R.J. Barrett finished with 22 points and five rebounds, while Alec Burks chipped in 17 points and eight assists off the bench.
The New York Knicks. Oh, how I missed thee.
In the team’s first game out of the All-Star break, the Knicks hosted one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference in Milwaukee. Both teams were rested and ready to go. Barrett got busy early; a quick ferocious dunk right down the lane, a nice made jumper, and an excellent find to Nerlens Noel for an easy oop to start off for the Knicks.
RJ BARRETT WITH THE HESI AND THE BAPTISM!!!
AIR CANADA ✈️ 🇨🇦 pic.twitter.com/T2RfsZJ4uV
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) March 12, 2021
For the rest of the half, however, it was all Milwaukee. New York made sure to keep Giannis in front of them, even throwing shades and doubles at him, but his passing sliced through New York’s defense. Antetokounmpo would drive to the basket, find the open man, and as soon as the Knicks would just, the Bucks would make the next pass to an available shooter. Instead of Giannis killing them, the likes of Brook Lopez and Donte DiVincenzo found themselves the benefactors of easy, wide-open looks.
Milwaukee went into the half up 17 points for a multitude of reasons. While the Bucks found themselves with tough shots in the paint, they continued to get to the rim for finishes. The Bucks also owned the rebounding advantage 27 to 16—neutralizing any and every chance for the Knicks. Finally, Julius Randle was effectively knocked out of the game, ending the first half with just three points, four rebounds, and two assists on 1-of-8 shooting. When you can stop Randle and grab every rebound to limit second-chance scoring, the Knicks are in trouble.
I would hate to call the second half cardio, but the Bucks continued to keep the pressure on the Knicks, so the made baskets from New York were followed by a made basket by Milwaukee. We got some nice Barrett possessions, but we also got some of the same issues that plagued the Knicks—more on that in the game notes. Randle continued to have a poor game; although he did throw some impressive passes. While everyone on the Bucks seemed to get good looks, I found Khris Middleton to be especially aggressive in abusing New York’s defense.
The fourth quarter was both teams playing out the clock. Milwaukee waited a bit before emptying the bench, while the Knicks largely leaned on their second unit. Both Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley led the charge with a nice Kevin Knox cameo as well. Both rookies looked to get a bit of a groove going as they head into their next game—with Toppin getting some easy looks and Quickley pushing the ball forward and looking for his shooting stroke again. Taj Gibson got upset as the lack of defense and the Knicks went quietly into the night and the Bucks got revenge on the Knicks from earlier in the year.
Let’s jump into the game notes.
- The Bucks are, not surpring, really good. Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Holiday, and Lopez’s quartet is formidable, but they’re also versatile, allowing head coach Mike Budenholzer to use a bevy of shooters. DiVincenzo is as good as advertised on defense, and as a result, the Bucks require minimal from their bench.
- R.J. Barrett played well, but I want to see more. He got some good looks and even took over for a bit in the third. The issue? The Knicks just need some more shooting around him. Two occurences where Barrett got into the middle of the floor, absorbed the defense, and kicked it out for open looks—both resulted in misses. Again, I want to see Barrett alongside some shooters because I find his passing underrated and it could work.
- A rough first half for Obi Toppin and a whatever overall game. He got a good jumper to go, but a brutal offensive foul in transition stopped him from another easy bucket. Then, a bad pass turned into an easy DiVincenzo finish on the other end. We want to see more Obi, but this was a tough night against a talented Bucks team.
- Randle had a poor night. The Bucks made sure to neutralize his bully ability in scoring at the rim and the jumper wasn’t falling. To his credit, Julius will switch to creation mode and finished with six assists. As a result of Randle’s poor night, New York’s offense was rudderless.
- We’re not going to keep pointing this out, but man is New York’s second unit bad without Derrick Rose. It lacks any juice and any ability to get into the paint. Quickley was rough tonight, especially defensively, while Ntilikina had a good defensive night, although he was invisible offensively.
- Salute Alec Burks off the bench, though. 17 points and eight assists and some good shots. That passing was key in the scond unit as Rose was out; finding some nice looks for Taj Gibson and Quickley.
The Knicks travel to OKC to face the Oklahoma City Thunder (15-21) on Saturday, March 13th. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. ET.