Knicks' Jalen Brunson drives past Milwaukee Bucks' Malik Beasley during...

Knicks' Jalen Brunson drives past Milwaukee Bucks' Malik Beasley during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, in Milwaukee. Credit: AP/Morry Gash

MILWAUKEE — The first time the Knicks faced the Bucks this season they lost, but Jalen Brunson poured in a season-high 45 points, prompting Damian Lillard to praise him afterward.

“He puts the defender in tough positions, to where you almost, you have to foul,” Lillard said last month. “You’re trying to defend hard like you’re taught to, and he’s having you at his mercy.”

As they met for a second time Tuesday night in the In-Season Tournament Bucks’ coach Adrian Griffin backed up the words of Lillard.

“He’s crafty," Griffin said . . . . “We have to defend him without fouling. And that’s kind of a tough task at times because you want to keep your physicality. But also you don’t want to send him to the free-throw line. He’s cunning. He knows how to draw fouls. And he does a great job with it. One thing I’ll say is just have the discipline to keep him off the free-throw line.”

Split attention

While the NBA is hoping to create interest in these early-season games with the tournament they couldn’t hold the attention fully of one of the players involved.

“I was going back and forth [between In-Season Tournament games] and Monday Night Football,” Josh Hart said. “Had a couple parlays going for Monday Night Football. [Jaguars running back Travis] Etienne kind of failed me a little bit. I needed him to get 50 yards, he got about 32. No, actually he got 45. He missed about five yards. I would’ve won some money. Yeah, I was really consumed by that yesterday. It put me in a bad mood, but I saw Tyrese [Haliburton] had a good game. I saw Indiana won, so I know the ramifications for what we do. I wish Etienne carried the ball more than 11 times.”

Welcome to the show

With Evan Fournier and DaQuan Jeffries sick and away from the team, the Knicks brought two-way contract players Charlie Brown Jr. and Jaylen Martin with them to Milwaukee. Those players have a stake in this — with two-way contract players getting a share (albeit smaller) of the In-Season Tournament financial prizes.

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