Knicks Show ‘Em All — Give NY’ers Christmas Gift. NY 129 Milwaukee 122

The Knicks showed ’em all — the media critics and the NBA in general — by beating Milwaukee soundly at Madison Square Garden on Christmas Day, 129-122.

The 22-7, NBA-elite Milwaukee Bucks had just beaten the Knicks at Madison Square Garden 2 days earlier on Saturday afternoon, and had thrashed NY in all 3 meetings this season so far — the unusually high number of early-season matchups due to the in-season tournament.

The Knicks did everything that coach Tom Thibodeau said they needed to do in the post-game interviews after each of the losses. They moved without the ball; they ran the floor; they rebounded; they got hustle points; they created rhythm for each other; they hit their open shots.

Jalen Brunson was a “1A dude” — 38 points and commanding the Knicks throughout; taking command at key junctures of the game to counter any Milwaukee attempt at coming back.

And this time he had help: RJ Barrett turned in a big game — making up for his stinker 2 days earlier against Milwaukee. Immanuel Quickley poured in 20 efficient points off the bench; Julius Randle was magnificent. Josh Hart made Huge hustle plays. Isaiah Hartenstein was a rock inside.

“I don’t really think we showed ourselves to be honest; we’re always confident coming into a game,” said Josh Hart afterwards. “We just go out there and try to win. That’s our mentality. No matter who it is, if we play well, we have a chance to win.”

NY improves to 17-12; Milwaukee drops to 22-8.

1. Barrett & Quickley Help Brunson Early

RJ Barrett came out aggressive and efficient — seemingly hell bent to eradicate the stinker he laid on Saturday against this same Milwaukee team on this same MSG court.

  • Barrett hit an early 3 to make it a 6-5 game Milwaukee.
  • Barrett dunked next time down to put NY up.
  • Barrett hit another 3 midway thru the quarter to put NY up 14-13.
  • Barrett stole the ball from his nemisis Khris Middleton and fed Donte DiVincenzo for a layup — which DiVincenzo missed but Barrett made the tip in on an offensive rebound to tie the game 16-16.
  • Barrett hit a drive to put NY up 18-16.
  • Barrett hit another drive to put NY up 22-18.

And then Immanuel Quickley, who had also laid down a stinker on Saturday against this same Milwaukee team on this same MSG court — joined him.

  • Quickley hit a 3 to make it 27-22 NY.
  • Quickley hit a floater to make it 36-24 NY.
  • Quickley hit a floater at start of the 2nd to make it 38-27 NY.

In between, Jalen Brunson was commanding and scoring, and Julius Randle was scoring inside and outside.

2. Knicks Open up Double-Digit Lead in 2nd Quarter

Josh Hart joined the fray. But Milwaukee pushed back — with Damian Lillard, Bobby Portis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Brook Lopez doing damage.

Milwaukee pulled within 5 when Barrett came back into the game and nailed a huge 3. NY back up by 8.

The Knicks closed the quarter well — a Barrett drive with 1:36 left put NY up 8. Brook Lopez hit a 3, but Brunson hit a 3 to counter, and Randle hit a 3 and NY was up 11 at the half.

3. Knicks Stave Off Milwaukee Comeback Attempt in 3rd

Isaiah Hartenstein powered inside for consecutive dunks early in the 3rd — the second one on a beautiful feed inside from Brunson — and NY was up by 13.

But Milwaukee is a tremendous offensive team and they came back. Lillard and Giannis kept getting to the line and when Pat Connaughton hit a 3 with just over 5 minutes left, Milwaukee was within 4 points.

Jalen Brunson stepped up to ward off the threat. He hit a floater and 1 — for a 3-pt play.

Josh Hart added consecutive jumpers and NY was back up 9. Greek Freak hit a drive but Hart countered with another jumper. Greek Freak hit a 3 but Randle countered with a drive and free throws.

This was war. The height of the battle.

  • Brunson hit a pullup.
  • Lillard made free throws.
  • Randle drove the lane and got fouled; made his free throws.
  • And then Randle intercepted a Lillard pass, and fed Hart for dunk and NY was back up 11.

NY had closed another quarter well.

4. Quickley & Hart Lead Charge at Start of 4th

Milwaukee has Fire power.

Khris Middleton started off the 4th with a 3 and a pullup — but Immanuel Quickley countered for the Knicks with free throws off a drive and a floater.

Then Quentin Grimes got the ball on the left side and drove for a tremendous layup and NY was back to a 12-pt lead.

Josh Hart — Exceptional at running the break and making seemingly difficult layups in traffic — added buckets and Quickley continued to fuel the offense — with a jumper, a 3, and a layup.

NY was up 15. Then 16 with 5:11 left after a Brunson floater and a Randle drive.

Madison Square Garden was ROCKING on a Christmas day.

But Milwaukee would not go away.

Middleton went nuts; Lillard helped; Greek Freak scored inside; and Milwaukee kept getting serendipity offensive rebounds. When Bobby Portis hit a bucket inside with 1:31 left, Milwaukee was within 6.

5. Brunson a 1A Dude

Prior to the game, former WNBA star and current ESPN analyst Becky Hammond had created a stir by saying that the Knicks lacked a “1A dude” — and that Jalen Brunson was a great player but he was too small to be that guy.

It caused a stir across twitter — many agreed; some didn’t. Former Knick coach Rick Pitino weighed in on the matter — saying Hammond was wrong.

And so here was Brunson on center stage on Christmas day leading the Knicks over the vaunted Bucks.

With 1:11 left and Milwaukee down 6 and threatening — Brunson took over one more time — a floater in the lane for a 126-118 Knick lead.

“Jalen Brunson stays in attack mode and keeps his defender on their heels whether breaking you off the bounce and finishing in lane, creating contact or give him space and he hits his jumper,” noted  NBA Analyst Ross Kreines. “Also, truly utilizes fundamentals with shot fakes, jump stop, use of pivot foot and it’s over.”

In the final minute, Milwaukee hoisted up well-defended 3’s and missed, grabbed some serendipity offensive rebounds, but still missed against the tough Knick defense.

Middleton scored inside but Milwaukee couldn’t get closer than 6 pts and were forced to foul — and the Knicks (Randle and Barrett) hit their free throws for the old ballgame and Huge win.

Merry Christmas.

The Boxscore

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