MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Consider their game Friday a sharp reminder and a series of back-to-reality moments for the Knicks.
They may be improved. They may be considerably better than the 37-win outfit from last season. But they aren’t in the same stratosphere as the title-contending Bucks.
Even without key players Joe Ingles, Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton, Milwaukee, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, toyed with the Knicks for two quarters and then ran them off the court in the third.
Antetokounmpo got Mitchell Robinson in foul trouble and dominated the other Knicks. Jrue Holiday put on a third-quarter show. The Knicks’ big three of Jalen Brunson, Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean when it mattered. The result was a one-sided 119-108 loss at FiserV Forum that exposed many of the Knicks’ weaknesses.
The Knicks were only down by six points midway through the third quarter, when the Bucks finally put the hammer down. In the span of 2:34, Milwaukee unleashed a furious 18-0 run that included three 3-pointers and eight points from Antetokounmpo. The Knicks (3-2) trailed by 11 after three, and they never got closer than nine over the final 12 minutes in falling to 0-2 on the road.
Unlike during their first road game, an overtime loss to the Grizzlies, the Knicks were significantly outplayed this time. They were soundly beaten on the glass, 60-54, and their stars were mostly no-shows.
Antetokounmpo had more assists (eight) than Brunson, Randle and Barrett had combined (five), and the Bucks superstar scored more points (30) than Randle and Brunson (27) had combined. The most memorable moment from the Knicks’ trio was Brunson’s half-court shot at the first-half horn — and it didn’t even count. The Knicks’ offense, so efficient and free-flowing in the first four games, was locked down by Milwaukee’s stellar defense.
Antetokounmpo, the two-time MVP, had 30 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists and former Knick Bobby Portis added 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Bucks.
Barrett led the Knicks with 20 points, but his 3-point shooting woes continued in a 1-for-7 night that dropped him to 4-for-28 from distance this season. Brunson was held to season-lows in points (13) and assists (two) and Randle committed as many turnovers (three) as made field goals (three) in 31 minutes of little impact.
Considering Brunson, Randle and Barrett were a combined 5-for-18 from the field with just three assists, the Knicks weren’t in a bad spot trailing by six at halftime.
Twice, they were down by as many as eight points — at the game’s outset and late in the first half, after a failed 4-on-1 fastbreak ignited a Bucks mini-run of 9-3. The Knicks initially were headed to the locker room only down three, but Brunson’s heave from beyond half-court was ruled to have come after the horn.
Predictably, coach Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks had no answer for Antetokounmpo. He had 18 points, six rebounds and four assists in the first half, getting any shot he wanted while creating open 3-point looks for his teammates.
The Knicks used Robinson a lot on Antetokounmpo, but he picked up his third foul with 10:37 remaining in the opening half and sat until the break. Portis was almost as much of a headache, crushing the Knicks on the glass and producing 12 points off the bench.
The second half started like the first, with Antetokounmpo and the Bucks controlling play. After Holiday hit back-to-back 3-pointers, the Bucks’ lead was a game-high 11 with just over eight minutes left in the third. Two minutes later, Holiday helped push the lead to 15, following his strip of Hartenstein by setting up Grayson Allen in transition for a dunk.
It only got worse, with Milwaukee piling it on before Barrett ended the 18-0 run with a floater in the lane with just over four minutes left in the third.
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