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Knicks 113, Bucks 98: “No hustle or urgency that they had last year”

A gem of a win keeps the era of good feelings ashine.

New York Knicks v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

I went away to summer camp once as a child. It was my first experience with bullying, and not just from other kids. My two counselors used rainy days as an opportunity to gamble on us. Shut up in our cabin, they had us all strip to our underwear, picked two kids at a time and had us fight in the middle of the common room, surrounded on all sides. They bet on each match. That was their fun. There was blood and tears and moments pure and vile. Then it was over.

The Knicks won 113-98 last night against the champs in Milwaukee in a game that opened with the Bucks bullying their way to a 21-point first quarter lead. The Bucks drew first blood. But then the Knicks threw their best punch over three quarters of glorious crescendo.

Milwaukee’s best wasn’t — Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez were out — but whatever. There are only two outcomes in a basketball game: one team wins, the other loses. The best you can do against a shorthanded team is beat them and the Knicks did...though it looked a long shot early. The NBA’s most punchable face, Grayson Allen, stepped up in Middleton’s absence, tying his career-high for 3s in a game in the first quarter. He also got out on the break.

For the first six minutes the Knicks couldn’t stop turning the ball over and the Bucks couldn’t stop making them pay; this lovely finish from Jrue Holiday came during a 14-0 run.

The Bucks went up by 21 and there wasn’t a Phial of Galadriel in sight to light the dark.

But in a welcome carryover from last season, New York’s bench was the star of the night. The game needed emergency surgery and the reserves stopped the bleeding, led by the efforts of Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley and Nerlens Noel. The deficit was only seven at the half, turning a blowout loss into a W within reach. Sometimes reach is all it takes.

After being torched from deep in the early going, the Knick defense tightened up the rest of the night and the offense stopped outsourcing the ball. They also dominated the glass, especially the offensive glass. Randle had a good time with the glass all night.

A Quickley breakaway dunk tied it at 80, a Barrett lay-up over OAKAAKUYOAK Bobby Portis gave the Knicks their first lead of the night and the game its last lead change. If there was any doubt as to how the fourth quarter would go, Quickley made it clear at the end of the third.

The Knicks were Juggernaut: once they got going, there was no stopping them. The fourth quarter was the icing on the cake, the tortoise pulling away from the hare, the cherry on top of a nirvana sundae. Rose was feeling it all night, bouncing and trouncing like he was playing pickup. Man was loose.

The Knicks went up as many as 22 in the final frame, dominating the defending champs in a performance that other teams and power rankings the web over will note. After 12 minutes the Knicks looked a lock to end the night on a three-game losing streak. Now they head home 6-3, having beaten the Bucks three of the last four times. This was the kind of win that lets your imagination really explore the space.

Notes

  • The Knicks outscored the Bucks 94-60 over the last three quarters. I was going to post another boxing clip here, but this is a family website and I’d have to post some dark web nightmare fuel to properly analogize the whupping they whipped up.
  • MVP chants for Randle in Milwaukee. You could tell this game meant a lot to him before it even tipped-off. Would you agree with Giannis Antetokounmpo being better, but Randle being more skilled?
  • One of these dudes in the best basketball player in the world. The other’s the dude who just outplayed him.
  • Clyde Frazier compared Nerlens Noel’s shot-blocking to Bill Russell’s, specifically his rejections leading to possession for his team rather than flying out of bounds. High praise.
  • It took just a game and a half to remember how bad Noel is catching passes. Rose found him in a beautiful spot a few feet from the hoop, with Toppin open in the corner. A likely deuce or an open corner triple — both ideal outcomes. Instead, Noel couldn’t handle the pass and lost it out of bounds. You hear “it’s always the passer’s fault,” but that’s the “the customer is always right” of basketball. Everybody who’s ever worked in food service knows the customer is not only not always right but frequently, royally, dickishly wrong.
  • Numbers fun #1: for the Bucks to score 38 in the first quarter and not reach 100 is...wow. Milwaukee hit eight of their first 16 3-point attempts, then just eight of their final 27.
  • Numbers fun #2: If you see this, bluecheese — have the Knicks ever been down 20 or more in a game they went on to win by 20+?
  • You get an appreciation for Antetokounmpo’s athleticism when you see him break up two early alley-oops meant for Mitchell Robinson. Not a lotta cats control the airspace at Mitch’s altitude, but the MVP does.
  • A Giannis Euro-swoop nearly halfway through the first quarter was the first 2-pointer of the game. Basketball really is always evolving. That’s baseball, Suzyn.
  • Clyde made a Giannis comparison to Dr. J. If you’ve never done it, take a look at Erving’s numbers when you get the chance. Randle had 32, 12 and four assists last night. Erving averaged that for an entire season. And 2.5 steals. And nearly two blocks. On 50% shooting. At age 22.
  • Knox played a single minute and still managed to turn the ball over after catching the ball with his foot out of bounds. He’s good for one of those a night, whether he plays 20 minutes or two. Or one.

Quoth constantly, irrevocably, permanently always wrong forever: “...no hustle or urgency that they had last year.” There was a lot of that going around Knick social media around 8:00 p.m. My goodness, ye of little faith! Don’t mistake the waves be waving for the ship be sinking. The fleet next comes in tomorrow when they host Cleveland, one of the early season’s pleasant surprises. The Cavs come in riding a three-game winning streak; they’ll be without Lauri Markkanen, Isaac Okoro and Kevin Love, but Darius Garland and Collin Sexton are fun, Cedi Osman and Ricky Rubio play with flair and Evan Mobley is the most exciting rookie in the league — non-Jericho Sims division, natch.