In a late-season matchup of two short-handed squads, the Milwaukee Bucks outlasted the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
With All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo resting a sore ankle, the Milwaukee Bucks entered their game in New York on Saturday looking for the Greek Freak’s supporting cast to step up and help the Bucks rebound from their disappointing loss to Brooklyn earlier in the week.
Head coach Joe Prunty’s first move was a natural one: inserting backup forward Jabari Parker into the starting lineup. With Parker in the first unit, Milwaukee played the Knicks pretty evenly in the opening period. The Bucks were guilty of some lackluster defense early on, but they scored enough to avoid falling into an early hole despite the Knicks’ early 7-3 lead.
After one, the Bucks led 31-28. The second quarter was quite similar to the first, and perhaps what stood out the most after two quarters was the lack of energy from both the competing teams and the crowd alike. The Bucks were paced by unlikely scoring leader John Henson‘s 15, but faced a 55-53 deficit as the first half ended.
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The intensity picked up slightly in the third quarter. The Knicks led by five points about halfway through the period, and the crowd was starting to get into the game. A run fueled by Knicks turnovers saw the Bucks take a 80-77 lead by the end of the third.
After a neck-and-neck start to the fourth quarter, the Bucks finally took over the game with a 12-0 run completing with about two minutes to go. The Knicks, led by 18 points from Jarrett Jack, simply did not have the juice to threaten Milwaukee down the stretch.
With the victory, Milwaukee improved to 43-37 on the season and strengthened their position within the lower half of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Now a full game ahead of the eighth-placed Washington Wizards, the Bucks are currently in control of a coveted seventh-seed, and still in the hunt to climb into sixth place with just two games remaining.
Despite the high stakes, this game felt like a slog for the most part. Let’s take a closer look at how the Bucks were able to grind out one more late season victory with their best player in street clothes.