David Fizdale on what he saw when Kevin Knox suffered his ankle injury.
Chris Iseman, Staff Writer, @chrisiseman
MILWAUKEE — For their second straight game, the Knicks went up against an Eastern Conference contender and overcame a big deficit to make it a close game late.
But for their second straight game, they couldn’t close out the victory.
The Knicks overcame a 19-point halftime deficit before the Bucks pulled away in the final two minutes for a 124-113 victory at Fiserv Forum on Monday.
The loss came just two days after the Knicks pushed the Boston Celtics to the final seconds before falling by two points.
“This is the suffering you must go through to become a good basketball team,” coach David Fizdale said. “The best part of our guys is we find a way to make it a basketball game. No matter what mistakes we made, we understand we’ve got to get off to better starts. They own that in the locker room, which is great.”
The Bucks feature one of the NBA’s best all-around players in Giannis Antetokounmpo, a star forward who somehow seems to get better every season. He’s surrounded by a talented cast, from Khris Middleton to Eric Bledsoe and more.
Milwaukee needed all of them Monday night.
“You’ve got to pick your poison with that group,” said Tim Hardaway Jr., who finished with 24 points on 10-of-23 shooting (3-of-9 from the perimeter). “Not only can they shoot the ball but they’ve got guys that can get to the paint whenever they want against any team that they go up against.”
Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 15 rebounds, while Middleton had 30 points on 11-of-14 shooting, including 7-of-8 from the perimeter.
Mounting another comeback
Milwaukee connected on shots early in the game to build a big lead.
The Knicks made it close in the second quarter, but the Bucks ended up carrying a 19-point lead into halftime. They shot 10-of-20 from the perimeter in the first half.
But the Knicks climbed back, courtesy of Trey Burke scoring 13 of his 19 points in the third quarter.
The Knicks outscored Milwaukee, 35-17, in the period, during which the Bucks connected on just 1 of their 13 three-point attempts.
Damyean Dotson, who has received more minutes with Kevin Knox sidelined with a sprained left ankle, drained a pair of game-tying three-pointers. Dotson finished with 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting (4-of-8 from the perimeter).
After Milwaukee regained the lead, Hardaway nailed a triple that knotted the game at 110 with 3:44 remaining.
But Milwaukee started to pull away.
The Bucks got a big three-pointer from Bledsoe that put Milwaukee back up by seven points with 1:44 left.
Middleton then drained his final three before a dunk from Antetokounmpo put Bucks up, 124-113, with 38.3 seconds remaining.
“Our goal was to get it to 10 going into the fourth and we exceeded that,” Hardaway said. “We just had to make sure we weathered the storm as much as possible. Sadly enough we couldn’t get that done once again, tonight. Move on, learn from it. Can’t keep on saying that.”
Mario Hezonja delivers
Fizdale has been looking for more production from Hezonja and he responded Monday night. He scored 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting, including 2-of-5 from three-point range.
Hezonja also had four rebounds, three assists and two steals in 30 minutes.
The 23-year-old had struggled the previous two games and played just nine minutes against the Celtics.
“He responded to the last game and what he went through and what I was trying to get across to him,” Fizdale said. “He understand where I was coming from a place of the truth and trying to get him to play a brand of basketball that we can trust. I really thought he responded well.”