Alec Burks and RJ Barrett each scored 21 points to help the New York Knicks to a 102-96 victory Saturday night over the Milwaukee Bucks, who were without Giannis Antetokounmpo and three other injured starters.
The victory was costly for the Knicks, who lost starting center Mitchell Robinson to a broken right foot in the first quarter. He will be re-evaluated when the Knicks return to New York on Sunday.
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“It’s the NBA,” Barrett said. “It was a little different situation, but we found a way to win and had to pull it out.”
Burks’ 3-pointer put the Knicks up 99-96 with 1:19 remaining. Milwaukee then missed its next two 3-point attempts, along with a turnover.
Burks hit a technical foul free throw with eight seconds left to make it 100-96.
“You go into a game, and you’re planning for all possibilities, and you want to be ready,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “And then you have a number of guys that are out, then you have guys that are out as well, and then you have an injury during the game, and then you’re facing a zone for the entire game. It comes down to your ability to rise above whatever challenges that you’re facing and find a way to win.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo sat with a sprained left knee. His brother, Thanasis, had 23 points and Jordan Nwora 21 for the Bucks, who lost their second straight after eight consecutive victories.
“I think their competitiveness was really good, their togetherness,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Worked defensively, found ways to get things done offensively. A lot of positives. Of course, we’d like to win, but the way they competed, that’s what we want to be about.”
Despite a patchwork lineup, the Bucks were within 81-77 after three periods.
Burks and Immanuel Quickley opened the fourth quarter with consecutive 3-pointers to put the Knicks up 87-77.
Barrett’s drive put the Knicks up 96-91, but a 3-pointer by Antetokounmpo and dunk by Brook Lopez tied it at 96.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo said he thought the Bucks zone was an effective surprise.
“It did really bother them,” he said. “They had to make, like, tough shots at the end to beat us. We’ve worked with it. It’s one of the things that I think the whole team – not just us – is going to work on. I think it can be our secret weapon.”
Milwaukee also was without starters Khris Middleton, Donte DiVincenzo and Jrue Holiday. Forward Bobby Portis, the leading scorer off the bench, missed his second straight game due to COVID-19 protocols.
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Knicks: Robinson was in his fourth game back after missing 15 games with a broken right hand, which he sustained in mid-February. He was averaging 8.5 points and 8.4 rebounds in 28 minutes per game. Robinson shot an NBA-record 74.2% last season
Bucks: Alongside regular center Lopez, the starters were Thanasis Antetokounmpo, rookies Sam Merrill and Jordan Nwora, and two-way player Axel Toupane — each making his first start of the season … Injuries were listed as DiVincenzo (left foot plantar fasciitis), Holiday (left knee contusion), Middleton (left hip contusion).
Knicks point guard Derrick Rose, who had not played since Feb. 28 while recovering from COVID-19, returned and played 29 minutes, finishing with 13 points on 6-of-15 shooting. “My wind was good,” Rose said. “It let me know that everything I was doing conditioning-wise, that I was on the right track with being back the right way. I’m just happy that we won. It was a weird game.”
Knicks: Host Miami on Monday.
Bucks: Are at the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday.