Knicks guard Jalen Brunson looks to pass the ball defended...

Knicks guard Jalen Brunson looks to pass the ball defended by Milwaukee Bucks guard Jevon Carter in the first half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Knicks reached the midpoint of the season Monday night as they hosted the Milwaukee Bucks. And if you have a clear idea of what they are as a team, you might be more prescient than most.

The team has gone through a series of wild streaks and swings in the first 41 games of the season, and they took a Madison Square Garden sellout crowd on just such a roller-coaster ride Monday.

After struggling to find a pass or a shot that was on target early, the Knicks built a 17-point lead in the third quarter. But that disappeared, and the wild swings came almost possession by possession until the fans finally left, shaking their heads.

Despite Jalen Brunson’s career-high 44 points, the Knicks lost to the Bucks, 111-107. But it was hardly a surprise if placed in context of the first half of the season as a whole.

The Knicks ended the night with a 22-19 record and seventh place in the Eastern Conference. They have gotten there with a level of streakiness that defies logic. They entered the night with a four-game winning streak that was preceded by a five-game losing streak that was preceded by an eight-game winning streak.

So can they get a handle on this Jekyll-and-Hyde persona for the second half of the season?

What their fans saw on this night was that they were not ready to beat a team like the Bucks.

“I saw a championship team just kind of grind us down, chipping away,” Brunson said. “We didn’t hold up enough resistance to get that lead. Got to give them credit. We’ve got to be better, but you’ve got to give them credit as well.

“[A] championship team not getting rattled. Obviously, they have one of the best players to play this game in Giannis [Antetokounmpo], and Jrue [Holiday] just being clutch as he is, they just wouldn’t go away. You’ve got to give them credit. They used their experience against us.”

The difference for the Knicks this season has been the addition of Brunson, and on this night he seemed like the only thing keeping the Knicks going. He scored 18 points in the first quarter and 18 more in the fourth.

Although Julius Randle ended up with 25 points and 16 rebounds, he struggled through a 9-for-29 shooting night, including 1-for-12 from beyond the arc.

“I still shot them,” Randle said. “Miss-or-make league, man. The same shots I practice and put thousands and thousands of hours in, I’m not worried about it. They’ll go in next game.”

It was Brunson early and Brunson late against one of the best defenders in the NBA, Holiday. But with Brunson and Immanuel Quickley — who added 23 points and shot 9-for-13 — providing the only hot hands, the Knicks needed to stop the Bucks.

While they contained Antetokounmpo, limiting him to 22 points, they were done in by Holiday in the end.

The Bucks fell behind 70-53 but scored 58 points in the last 16:41, including 38 in the fourth quarter.

Brunson gave the Knicks the lead on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter, the final coming with a jumper in the lane. But Holiday and Brook Lopez hit three-pointers to put the Bucks ahead 100-97.

Brunson cut it to one with 1:27 left, but after two misses, the Bucks got a third chance, and this time Holiday’s step-back three-pointer with 47 seconds left gave Milwaukee a 103-99 lead.

The Knicks chased them to the buzzer, but the Bucks made their free throws.

“We’ve just got to close the quarter out better,” Randle said. “We did a great job of coming out, starting the third quarter strong, building momentum and the lead. But we didn’t close it out and we gave them life. A team like that with championship experience, you don’t want to do that. Learning experience for us, for sure. Coach always says play tough with the lead and [it’s a] learning experience and we’ll do better.”

The first half had none of the traits that have marked the Knicks’ recent success. Randle, who has carried the team to quick starts on most nights, endured a 1-for-12 first quarter from the floor, missing all eight of his attempts beyond the arc. The Knicks did not have an assist in the quarter and failed to log their first until 7:18 remained in the first half.

But somehow the Knicks managed to get through the first quarter tied at 22, with Brunson getting the Bucks’ best perimeter defender, Holiday, in quick foul trouble. He committed three in less than five minutes.

Since returning from a three-game absence because of a hip injury, Brunson has averaged 33.0 points, 6.0 assists and 5.8 rebounds in four games.