MILWAUKEE — Talk about rubbing it in.
The Knicks and the Bucks have seen their seasons go in polar-opposite directions since their game against each other on Feb. 6. Just in case the Knicks hadn’t noticed, the Bucks were all too happy to remind them on Friday night.
In the team gift shop, the Bucks were selling T-shirts commemorating All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo’s dunk over the Knicks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. in last month’s game.
And while the Bucks’ 120-112 win Friday night didn’t contain that level of highlight-worthy high jinks, it again was the Greek Freak who keyed the victory.
Antetokounmpo scored 13 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter to help hand the Knicks their sixth straight loss, 14th in their past 15 games and 28th in their past 35.
Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said Antetokounmpo is incredibly difficult to stop, especially the way the game is being called.
“Now that they allow the Eurostep, where you can go from the top of the key or the half-court line to the basket without dribbling, it’s tough to guard him because he’s good at it and he has long strides,” Hornacek said. “He’s really worked on his body. Now he’s a lot stronger. When he does spin or knock into somebody, he’s knocking them out of the way rather than the other way around. It’s a maturity and growth in the game that makes him a great player. He’s hard to stop.”
The February game against the Bucks signaled the end of any Knicks playoff hopes as Kristaps Porzingis suffered a season-ending knee injury after dunking over Antetokounmpo.
Meanwhile, the Bucks are looking at making the playoffs for the second straight season and are tied for seventh in the Eastern Conference. Antetokounmpo is the league’s No. 3 scorer at 27.2 points and looks very much like the kind of young player a contender can be built around.
Antetokounmpo’s most impressive play Friday, however, came on defense as he blocked a shot by Emmanuel Mudiay at the end of the third quarter.
He said there’s nothing in particular about the Knicks that brings out the best in him.
“I’m just trying to make plays,” he said. “Luckily, I’ve made some great plays against the Knicks.”
The Bucks’ Khris Middleton scored 30 points and Antete kounmpo had 10 rebounds and five assists. Hardaway led the Knicks with 26 points.
Hardaway was asked after the game if he was aware that he was being featured on the T-shirt. “That’s back in the past. We are moving on,” he said before moving on himself and walking out of the locker room.
Mudiay, who shot 3-for-25 in the first three games of the current road trip, shot 7-for-14 and finished with 19 points. Troy Williams scored 18 off the bench and Enes Kanter added 16 points and eight rebounds.
Notes & quotes: The Bucks’ Jabari Parker is serving as an inspirational story for Knicks fans as they wait for Porzingis to come back from his knee surgery. Parker, who has torn his ACL twice, has looked healthy since returning in early February after sitting out an entire season. Though on a minutes restriction, he averaged 11.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in his first 14 games back. He had 12 points and five assists in 23 minutes Friday. Said Hornacek: “When we watch him on film, one thing that’s a little surprising is the explosiveness he still has. That’s a good thing to see for when KP comes back.’’