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Tom Thibodeau vents at Knicks' starters after comeback by reserves in loss to Bucks

Immanuel Quickley #5 of the Knicks reacts late

Immanuel Quickley #5 of the Knicks reacts late during the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Before the game began, Tom Thibodeau implored his team to understand what it would take to defeat the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks five days after coming back from a 21-point deficit to beat them on the road. But the starting unit provided almost nothing, looking like five guys who had met outside the arena before the game, putting the Knicks in a huge hole.

And then, after the Knicks fell behind by 24 points, the venerable arena pulsed to life as a group of reserves embarked on an improbable rally. They were able to tie the score, but the Knicks just didn’t have enough left as they fell to the Bucks, 112-100.

Mostly thanks to the reserves, the Knicks turned a 73-49 deficit into a tie at 89 on Immanuel Quickley's three-pointer with 5:06 left, but they ultimately fell to 2-4 at home. There would be no wild celebration in the streets outside the Garden. In the end it was just another disappointing ending.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was held in check, scoring 15 points and shooting 5-for-15, but after the Knicks rallied to tie it, the Bucks shot 7-for-8 from three-point range (8-for-9 overall) and finished with 26-for-50 shooting from beyond the arc.

The Knicks starters were mostly dreadful, shooting 12-for-36 before giving way to the reserves.

The struggles of the starting unit prompted Thibodeau to yank them all one by one in the third quarter and ride the bench unit all the way to the finish, and with good reason.

"You know what they say. When it’s 10 games, they say you need 20," Thibodeau said of the time needed for the starting unit to jell. "When you say 20, they say you need 30, at 30 you say 40. And before you know it, the season is over. So that’s a bunch of [expletive]."

Last season, with the stands empty for most of the season because of COVID restrictions, the Knicks were 25-11 at Madison Square Garden and 16-20 on the road. The home dominance helped them to the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and their first playoff berth in eight seasons.

"We try to ease into games," said Derrick Rose, who had 22 points. "We try to get a feel instead of being the aggressor. And a lot of times you have to be the aggressor, you know? Let people know that you’re there, but that’s not only the starting five. That’s the bench coming in, playing lackadaisical, nonchalant. We picked it up late. But that’s everybody. We’re not that good to give people points or give them confidence. We got to come out and be the hardest-playing team, and we got to learn soon."

The Knicks were down by eight early in the third quarter when the Bucks ran off 16 straight points — the last two coming on a lazy pass by Quickley that was picked off by Antetokounmpo, leading to a breakaway dunk.

With Thibodeau searching for an energy burst, he put Taj Gibson, Rose and Alec Burks on the floor with Obi Toppin and Quickley. In the final seconds of the third quarter, a small spark was lit when Quickley drove for a layup and then Rose swiped the ball from Jordan Nwora and drove for a breakaway layup just before the buzzer.

The deficit was 16 with little sign that the Knicks could get back In the game, but. the reserves continued to chip away and eventually pulled even as the excitement built in the arena.

With the Knicks down four in the final minutes, Antetokounmpo was called for a foul as he blocked Toppin's shot, but the call was overturned and ruled a clean block. The Bucks won the jump ball and Pat Connaughton (23 points) promptly hit a pair of three-pointers to extend the Bucks' lead to 10.

New York Sports