What a comeback! After trailing by 21, Knicks go up by 22 in win over Bucks
MILWAUKEE — Maybe a few months from now, this game will mean nothing, a distant memory of one odd night. Or maybe it will be a night the Knicks can point to as a moment when their season shifted.
Coming off two straight losses and facing the defending champion Bucks on the road Friday night, the Knicks found themselves down by 21 points early in the second quarter, and Fiserv Forum already was in a celebratory mood. Then something happened. The game turned, the Knicks came back — and maybe the season turned, too.
Battling back with the sort of effort that they hadn’t shown consistently since opening night, the Knicks chased down the Bucks, caught them and continued to pile it on, turning that 21-point deficit into a 22-point lead en route to a 113-98 win.
The Knicks outscored the Bucks 93-50 in a span of 32 1⁄2 minutes. It was the first time in franchise history that the Knicks overcame a 20-point deficit to record a double-digit victory since the NBA began tracking play-by-play in boxscores during the 1997-98 season.
By the time the Knicks (6-3) cleared the bench with a little over two minutes left, Julius Randle had scored 32 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Derrick Rose spurred much of the comeback, coming off the bench for 23 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. RJ Barrett added 20 points, reaching that mark for the fifth straight game.
Said Rose, "It was big because it was the next game and the next game was against the champs. We knew coming in that of course we wanted our energy to be there, but like I said, 82 games, each game is different. If anything, this can thrust us forward into an area that we want to be in."
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points and Grayson Allen added 22 for the Bucks (4-5), who were held to 60 points in the final three quarters.
In Wednesday night’s loss in Indiana, the Knicks fell behind 11-0, surrendered 36 points in the first quarter and mounted a futile battle to overcome an early 15-point deficit.
If the focus was on avoiding that sort of start in Milwaukee, it fell on deaf ears. The Knicks surrendered eight three-point field goals in the first quarter, gave up 38 points in the period and fell behind 40-19 in the opening minute of the second quarter.
The Bucks were boosted by the return of Jrue Holiday, who had missed the last five games, but still were without starters Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez. It hardly seemed to matter early as Allen led them with 14 first-quarter points.
But even as things seemed to be going awry, Taj Gibson implored his teammates to keep going, telling them over and over that they would come back. The mood didn’t fall to a dark place, the Knicks started to hustle, and with each point knocked off the lead, they began to believe a little bit more.
The Knicks mimicked the comeback they had mounted in Indiana and this time managed to come all the way back. By halftime they had closed the gap to 63-56 behind 16 points and eight rebounds for Randle.
The Knicks finally pulled even at 80-80 on a steal and breakaway by Immanuel Quickley with 2:14 left in the third quarter. Rose and Quickley added three-pointers and the Knicks celebrated as they headed into the fourth quarter with an 88-83 lead, which grew to 112-90.
"You don’t want to get down like we did, but we did," Tom Thibodeau said. "It’s a long game and we kept fighting and got it down to a manageable number. We made some hustle plays and that sort of galvanized us, gave us energy.
"We got it to 10, and once we got it to 10, you have a chance. I thought a lot of guys stepped up. Our bench came in and got it within reach. When the starters came back in the third, they played with great intensity."