One moment, the Garden had gone from uneasy groans to all-out boos. The next, it was on its feet, at full throat, treating each possession like it was an elimination game.
Wednesday was a 2 ¹/₂-hour roller-coaster ride. The Knicks went from getting run off the court to nearly pulling off a stunning victory. Only the Bucks’ clutch 3-point shooting prevented them from blowing another huge lead to the Knicks five days after choking away a 21-point edge in Milwaukee.
Ultimately, the poor performance by the Knicks’ starters in each half was too much for the Derrick Rose-led crew to overcome in a 112-100 defeat. The loss continued their recent problems at home, the Knicks’ third straight loss at MSG and fourth in five games. Their perimeter defense remained a major issue, allowing the Bucks to shoot 52 percent (26 of 50) from deep. Reserve Pat Connaughton hit eight of them and two-time MVP GiannisAntetokounmpo had 15 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists. Derrick Rose led the Knicks with 22 points and Immanuel Quickley had 18 as the struggling starters sat for the final 14:01.
At one point, the Knicks trailed by 24. Even the shots of Celebrity Row showed disappointed faces. But when coach Tom Thibodeau went to his bench, the somber atmosphere eventually turned raucous.
The passive and sluggish starters were replaced by energetic and intense reserves. Instead of watching Julius Randle isolate, the Knicks were reacting, forcing turnovers, moving the ball, flying around the court.
When Alec Burks’ 3-pointer hit every part of the rim and caromed off the glass, before dropping in, it became deafening at MSG. That 24-point deficit was now four, following a furious 21-3 run. A few possessions later, Quickley got the Knicks all the way even at 89, hitting a step-back 3-pointer with 5:06 left. But the Bucks answered with a storm of 3-pointers, and built their lead back to 10 after three straight Connaughton 3s.
In the third quarter, the Bucks were threatening to run the Knicks off their own court, ripping off a 32-8 run bridging the second and third quarters. Thibodeau’s starters were settling for long jumpers, not defending the 3-point line and playing without energy or intensity.
It was similar to the opening half, when the only inspired stretch came from the bench, The reserves dug the Knicks out of an early 11-point deficit, ripping off a 16-4 run. The ball moved. The defense was strong. But when Thibodeau went back to his regulars, the Bucks regained their lead, closing the half on an 11-2 spurt. Eight of those points came from Bobby Portis, the best player on the floor in the opening half with 16.
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