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Knicks 129, Bucks 122: “Manhattanite Christmas Carol“

Merry Knicksmas!

Milwaukee Bucks v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Curtis James Jackson. Tracy Morgan. Carmelo Anthony. Angel Reese. Fat Joe. John Legend. Chris Rock. Chrissy Teigen. Steve Novak. You name them.

Tons of celebrities and New York legends were present at MSG on Christmas Day. And among them all, the one who shone the most yesterday afternoon was HIM, a son of a Rick.

After failing to beat Milwaukee three consecutive times this season and 10 overall since they won the chip in 2021, the Knicks finally sent the Bucks back home packing with an L in their collective bag reigning supreme inside the confines of MSG, 129-122.

Now, allow me to give some flowers to someone you might not expected to read about so early in the recap: Tom Thibodeau, he of the 142 victories with the Knicks. That’s tied for the fifth-most (Hubie Brown) in franchise history. One more, and our man will be in sole possession of that No. 5 slot.

Now, for what truly matters.

What about Lucky Number Eleven? What about the little, smart, unathletic “dude” that to prove he’s a legitimate 1A decided to emblazon his jersey with two, not just one, single-digit number ones? Take that, Becky.

Brunson danced all around the court on Monday, decided to celebrate the holiday by making a couple of carbon soles squeak while gracing the legendary and timeless hardwood of MSG, dumped 38 points on the Bucks after putting up 45 against them at the start of November, 24 a month later, 36 last Saturday.

“All-Star!” Julius Randle shouted at his teammate after the final buzzer sounded and everybody went home happy.

That better be damn right.

“They’re playing through [Brunson], they’re giving him every opportunity and he’s taking full advantage of it,” Damian Lillard said.

The Knicks ran the Bucks off the floor and outran them on it as everybody wanted them to do, including themselves after analyzing Saturday’s loss.

“I love Brook but he’s not the most athletic guy or quick guy, so we should be able to beat him down the court and get easy buckets in transition,” Josh Hart said of Brook Lopez before Monday’s matchup.

New York scored 23 fast-break points to Milwaukee’s 12.

“They have two 7-footers on the floor [in Brook Lopez and Antetokounmpo],” coach Tom Thibodeau said, “so you’ve got to try to get them before they get set, and if they do get set, then you’ve got to move them.”

The Knicks banged the Bucks for 72 in-the-paint pops while only surrendering 50. They matched them on the steals (seven apiece) and blocks (four each) columns while edging the Deer 27-26 in assists.

Even though they lost the rebounding battle 44-41, the Knicks still found a much better shooting stroke than their foes for the first time in forever, nailing shots at a 54% clip from the floor and nearly 31% from three.

The Bucks weren’t bad themselves (47% and 31% respectively) but could never quite match New York’s work on an extraordinarily bright day by the Knicks Fearsome Four.

Brunson got 38, Randle followed him with 24, RJ Barrett bounced back when it mattered the most and put up 21, and Immanuel Quickley scored 20 off the pine (in 22 minutes and 10 shots).

Too much, too hot to handle.

Both Isaiah Hartnstein (11 points, eight rebounds, four assists) and Hart (10 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two thefts) reached double-digit scoring figures.

The rotation was shortened to nine men with Quentin Grimes bottoming at 12 minutes and Taj Gibson enduring 15 rounds of the clock.

The Knicks led by as many as 16 in the fourth stanza. The Bucks refused to call it quits early, bridging the gap to six points multiple times at the end of the game with 1:31, 35.1, and finally 13.1 seconds left.

Brunson, Randle, and RJ scored at least one point in the actions run by New York following those comeback attempts, denying Milwaukee the chance of moving to 4-0 in the regular-season series.

It’s the first time since 1963 that the Knicks play on Dec. 25 and write four names next to 20+ numbers in the scoring column. It had only happened once before in a defeat to the LA Lakers.

The heroes then: Bill McGill (30), Art Heman (26), Bob Boozer, and Len Chappell (21 apiece). The winners now: RJ, JR, JB, and IQ.

New York is hooked on Christmas Day basketball. The franchise is 24-32 all-time in the slate, but don’t worry-we’re getting there and will eventually flip that balance. Milwaukee, not so fancy, is 5-5 all-time on Dec. 25.

“We had a lot of guys in double figures and a lot of assists. It was fun to play like that when everybody is moving and touching [the ball],” Quickley said.

“We’ve struggled against this team throughout this year and the fact that we came out with a win today, it’s special,” Brunson said.

“I just thought the energy level was back to where it needed to be,” Thibodeau added.

New York stayed above the play-in cut moving to a 17-12 record and still in possession of the no. 6 seed half-a-game above the Cleveland Cavaliers (17-13) and half-a-game behind the Miami Heat (18-12).

Three-game, four-day road trip ahead, starting Wednesday at Oklahoma City and including back-to-back visits to Orlando and Indy on Friday and Saturday. The boys will host Minny back at MSG on Jan. 1, but that’s a story for another year...

Merry Knicksmas!