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Sluggish Knicks fall below .500, hurt by Bucks’ 15-0 run

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) grabs a rebound

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) grabs a rebound against New York Knicks' Kristaps Porzingis (6) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, in Milwaukee. Credit: AP / Aaron Gash

MILWAUKEE — Derek Fisher lauded the growing stability of his core three players before Saturday night’s game. Bucks coach Jason Kidd quietly laid out the plan for how he would navigate three injured point guards and a two-game skid.

It looked like the recipe for a rout.

Just not in this direction.

The Bucks’ desperation proved greater than their opponent’s stability as the Knicks fell, 106-91, at the Bradley Center.

“They had more energy than us and brought the game to us from the start,” Fisher said. “We were fortunate to be in the game at halftime . . . Guys are mentally trying to do good things out there, but physically we didn’t have it tonight.”

The third quarter was punctuated by Jabari Parker’s booming slam over the heads of Carmelo Anthony and Jose Calderon, a product of Kristaps Porzingis’ bad pass on the other side of the floor, his fourth of five turnovers.

Parker’s jumper 30 seconds later opened a 20-point advantage and a technical foul on Calderon made it 73-52, the Bucks’ largest lead of the game.

That capped a 15-0 run that began with Greg Monroe’s driving layup with 9:24 left in the third quarter. The Bucks outscored the Knicks 29-21 in the frame and scored 60 points in the paint for the game.

Michael Carter-Williams scored 20 points, Monroe had 18 points and 14 rebounds and Parker added 17 points. O.J. Mayo had 17 points and five assists while starting at the point for Jerryd Bayless (ankle) . . . and Tyler Ennis (shoulder) . . . and Greivis Vasquez (ankle).

“We have quite a few guys that can handle the ball,” Kidd said about starting Mayo. “Being able to be consistent in our energy and effort is what we’re looking for.”

Anthony led the Knicks (10-11) with 18 points and Lance Thomas added 17. Arron Afflalo scored 13 and Porzingis had 12.

This was the Knicks’ third game in four days, and the fatigue showed, said Anthony, who was double-teamed all night. “They wanted it more than us on both sides of the court,” he said. “We made shots in the first half and in the second half they took it up a notch.”

The Knicks drew to within two at multiple points in the second quarter but struggled to get into any sort of rhythm. Robin Lopez’s driving layup with 2:26 left in the quarter got them to within 44-42, but that was greeted by six straight points by the Bucks — a stretch interrupted by Porzingis’ putback, a one-handed slap that momentarily stunned the crowd.

The Bucks went into the break with a 52-48 lead, scoring 10 of those points on turnovers. The Knicks had five players with two fouls by halftime, including Afflalo, Anthony and Porzingis. Porzingis picked up his fifth with eight minutes left and Anthony also finished with five.

It was an unexpected turn for a team that Fisher said was working toward a more even-handed offense. Before the game, he said that though it’s “easier said than done,” they didn’t want to have an over-reliance on Anthony. Afflalo, he said, is getting “more aggressive” and Porzingis is evolving.

It gives “Carmelo a lot of comfort and confidence that he can still play his game, but there’s another guy out there that can bring some aggression and some thrust to our game,” Fisher said. “It’s providing a good balance for us and making it easier for other guys to play around those three.”

But on a night when both teams went off-script, that didn’t much matter.

New York Sports