Knicks Come Back from 21 Down to Crush Champion Bucks in Milwaukee, 113-98

The Knicks started the night by getting blown off the court by the defending champion Bucks in Milwaukee, who rained 3’s on their head and outplayed them everywhere on the court.

And then — the Knicks defense kicked in, and Derrick Rose led them back. Julius Randle took it to Giannis Antetokounmpo. RJ Barrett played like a star. And Nerlens Noel played a spectacular defensive game. The Knicks turned the tide — were only down 7 at the half, led by 5 at the end of 3, and ended up blowing Milwaukee off their own court in the 4th quarter — NY leading by 21 points with 1:23 left.

“It’s a long game. You gotta keep fighting; try to get it to a manageable number,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “I felt once we got going a little bit, and we made a couple of hustle plays — that sort of galvanized us; gave us energy, and we got it to 10. And once you get it to 10 you feel you have a chance.”

”I thought our bench gave us a great lift when they came in — they got it within reach,” added Thibodeau. “And then when the starters went back in for the 3rd I thought they played with great intensity. The rebounding really got us going.”

“The challenge is with a guy like Giannis you have to load up pretty good to him, and they can make some 3’s. And they did,”explained Thibodeau on how Milwaukee got out to the big lead. “You can’t get discouraged; you have to make sure you’re protecting the paint but you need to make sure you’re firing out and protecting that (3-pt) line. That requires you to do 2, 3, 4 things on the same play. And they push the ball up on top of that. So there’s no relaxing. If you relax one second you’re giving them an easy scoring opportunity.”

1. Vintage Rose Ignites Comeback

Derrick Rose entered the game with 4:44 left in the 1st quarter and NY down 22-9 but it wasn’t until the 2nd quarter when he started cooking to lead the Knicks back. He hit two floaters and a driving layup for 6 straight Knick points then hit Mitchell Robinson with a pass for a bucket and foul — Robinson’s 3-pt play pulled NY within 46-34 and NY was on the edge of making it a ballgame.

Then Julius Randle started to take over — taking it to Greek Freak. Randle scored 9 points the rest of the quarter, was ripping down rebounds, and passing to Knicks for 3’s — RJ Barrett and Evan Fournier in particular, who hit back-to-back 3’s near end of the quarter to pull NY within 7.

Kemba Walker was back at the point to start the 3rd quarter — and the Knicks played even with Milwaukee. Rose came back in the game with 4:03 left in the 3rd quarter and NY down 5 points — and took over again — leading the Knicks to the lead and blowout in the 4th.

He was penetrating, leading the break, hitting 3’s — playing like the great Derrick Rose.

As Fred Katz pointed out, “The Knicks outscored the Bucks by 31 points in the 30 minutes Derrick Rose was on the floor tonight. The Bucks outscored the Knicks by 16 in the 18 minutes he was on the bench. That’s a FOURTY-SEVEN POINT SWING.”

Rose finished with 23 points on 10-18 shooting (2-6 from 3), 8 rebounds, and 4 assists.

Not Vintage Rose — New Rose

When Rose was asked afterwards if this was Vintage Derrick Rose, he teased “What’s vintage about it? I wasn’t shooting 3’s! I wasn’t shooting 3’s. I wasn’t pulling up for shots like I am now. But if you want to say it you can say it.”

2. Randle Took It to Greek Freak

Julius Randle had trouble with Greek Freak last year — but not this night. From 2nd quarter on he took it to Antetokounmpo and got the better of him.

Randle had 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists for a +13. He shot 11-22 from the floor, 3-9 from 3, and 7-10 from the free throw line. He was dominant inside and sprayed the ball to set up the Knick offense.

Antetokounmpo had 25  pts on 7-17 shooting (2-7 from 3), 7 rebounds, and 4 assists for a -5.

“Julius was Julius,” said Thibodeau afterwards. “The energy that he’s playing with makes us play with energy.”

3. Noel Spectacular

A big part of the Knicks defense, comeback, and defending Antetokounmpo well was Nerlens Noel, who entered in the 2nd quarter and ignited the Knicks overall defense.

“Nerlens’ play was phenomenal. Phenomenal,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards.

Noel had 6 points, 13 rebounds, 3 steals, and a block for a +22 in 24 minutes.

Mitchell Robinson played well — 4 pts (2-3 from the free throw line), 6 rebounds, 2 steals for a -1 in 21 minutes.

4. Barrett’s 5th Straight 20+ Game

RJ Barrett played like a star and was a big part of the win. He had 20 points on 8-21 shooting (2-7 from 3; 2-2 in free throws), 7 rebounds and 3 assists for a +15 in a game high 39 minutes.

It was his 5th straight game of 20 or more points.

5. Bench Stars

Immanuel Quickley had a big role in the win — providing scoring spark in the 2nd half — the 4th quarter especially. He was 4-9 (1-3 from 3) for 9 points and a +18.

Obi Toppin played well again — 6 points including 4-4 from the free throw line for a +2 in 15 minutes. His 3 has been off this year — he was 0-2 in this game and is only shooting .133 for the season from 3.

With the Knicks up by 21 points — 112-91 with 1:23 left, coach Thibodeau pulled his starters — allowing the Knicks end-of-bench to see daylight.

Kevin Knox immediately made an awkward Andrea Bargnani drive to the basket — running over the defender and flopping chest first to the floor — but unlike Bargnani got the foul call; he made one of the free throws

Miles McBride and Quentin Grimes also saw daylight.


  • Evan Fournier (7 pts on 2-7 shooting, 1-6 from 3 in 25 minutes) and Kemba Walker (5 pts on 2-8 shooting, 1-5 from 3 in 15 minutes) both had poor shooting nights for the 2nd game in a row.

The Boxscore

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