MILWAUKEE — Maybe it wasn’t David Fizdale’s fault.
Fizdale was out as coach one game after a 44-point blowout loss to the Bucks here on Dec. 2. So what’s the solution when the Knicks ventured to Fiserv Forum again Tuesday and found themselves trailing by 35 points in the third quarter, settling for a 128-102 loss to drop to 11-30 at the season’s halfway point?
The simple solution is that the Bucks (36-6) are a very good team and the Knicks are not a good team at all. Changing coaches doesn’t fix that.
The Knicks had tried to push the memory of that December loss out of their mind, but the Bucks put it right back in the forefront as they never trailed, opening a double-digit lead just minutes into the game and methodically pulling away as the game wore on.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 37 points in just 21 minutes, spending the fourth quarter laughing on the bench as the Knicks’ end of the bench tried to creep the score closer to respectability. None of the Bucks starters played more than 26 minutes and four of them played 22 or less.
The Knicks were down 8-0 and 18-4 at the start, but with Julius Randle scoring 14 of his 25 points in the first quarter, scratched back and trailed by six at the end of the quarter. And then it was all downhill after that.
“When we made it a game we’ve got to play,” Randle said. “Instead we dug ourselves another hole and we made it tough on ourselves. Credit to them, they’re a really good team. Can’t have too many errors, can’t have too many mistakes when you’re playing a team like that. Early we gave ourselves a chance but in the end we didn’t. We’ve just got to be better.”
In the previous matchup here RJ Barrett endured the worst game of his young career, missing all nine of his field-goal attempts. This time he was one of the few bright spots for the Knicks, scoring 22 points and hitting 5-of-7 from three-point range. The worst culprits this time were Reggie Bullock, who shot 0-for-8 from the field, and Elfrid Payton, who was 1-for-6.
With 6:58 to play in the third quarter Payton was ejected, drawing a pair of technicals from Kane Fitzgerald as he argued after a foul was called on Mitchell Robinson with the Knicks down 83-56. The Bucks converted all four free throws as he headed to the locker room, stretching the lead to 31 and leaving the Knicks with just Kadeem Allen as a point guard active for the game.
“[I was] super frustrated,” Payton said. “I felt like we were attacking just as hard as them. It’s a difficult situation.
”I mean they’re a good team. We fought back in the first quarter. We were right there. I think we were down three maybe. We were in the game. I just think it’s a couple plays. They make shots and then you get one of those 50/50 [calls] and then they get one and it goes from eight to 14 because of something like that. It makes a difference in the game. Obviously, there’s some things we could have done better. We could have done a better job in transition. I’ll just leave it at that.”
As Barrett readied to take the court again Tuesday night he admitted last month’’s defeat was on his mind again. And after seeing the Knicks pummeled again, he had it all brought back when his team was scrambling to stop the onslaught just minutes into the game.
“Really anything can happen in an NBA game,” Barrett said. “We cut it back down to single digits. It’s a long game. But they kept going the whole time. They never let up.”