Tom Thibodeau and his players don’t need Christmas presents this year.
They gave themselves and their fans the best gift of all Monday.
A victory over the title-contending Bucks.
The Knicks recorded their best performance of the season for this holiday showcase, ending their nine-game losing streak against Milwaukee in a sold-out Garden.
Two days after Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard and the Bucks torched the Knicks at MSG, the home team returned the favor with an impressive 129-122 victory in which the big four of Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley were all up to the task. the top of their game and the Knicks defense limited one of the premier offenses in the league.
“We played with more energy, more effort, obviously we made a lot more shots than in the last game. I did it,” said Barrett, who had 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting after just 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting Saturday. “Just the energy and the fight. We’ve lost to them three times already, so coming today on Christmas to get this one is very nice.
The Knicks quartet combined for 103 points, with Brunson leading the way with 38 points, six assists and no turnovers, and the Knicks (17-12) ultimately contained Milwaukee from top to bottom.
In the first three games between the teams this season, the Bucks shot 54.1 percent from 3 and averaged 19.7 from 3 while putting up 128.7 points per game.
This meeting was different. While Lillard, Antetokounmpo and Khris Middelton had 88 between them, their teammates struggled.
The rest of the Bucks shot 12 of 29 from the field and Milwaukee made just 13 of 42 from downtown.
“I just think today we needed to be a little more physical in everything we do,” Brunson said. “We had to be more intense, our closing had to be better, our running to people on the line had to be better, the communication, everything. I think it took a step in the right direction today. We made them miss, but I think we can do a better job at that as well.
The Knicks beat the Bucks (22-8) for the first time since November 5, 2021 – ending a nine-game streak against Milwaukee – and the victory marked their first victory against one of the two conference powers East, the Celtics and the Bucks. , in seven tries.
They led by 16 points in the fourth quarter, although they fell to six points late in the game.
Brunson’s jumper in the lane with 1:11 remaining pushed the lead to eight and he punctuated the basket with a punch, a rare display of emotion.
“(It meant) a lot, just because we’ve obviously struggled against this team throughout this year, so the fact that we got a win today, it’s special,” Brunson said. “I liked how we had a lead and no matter how much they cut the lead, we stayed calm and found a way to keep it.”
Randle had 24 points and nine rebounds, Barrett came out of a recent shooting slump and Quickley had 20 off the bench.
Josh Hart was terrific on both ends collecting 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Isaiah Hartenstein added 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Taj Gibson had three rebounds, three blocks and three assists in 15 valuable minutes.
Trailing by 11 at halftime, the Bucks came out strong after the break.
Fueled by a 12-point third quarter from Lillard, Milwaukee pulled within four thanks to a 9-0 run. Brunson didn’t let them get close.
He stopped the surge with a three-point play, then scored again on a pull-up jumper and the Knicks closed out the period well, maintaining the 11-point advantage they had at the break.
Hart and Quickley were instrumental in pushing the lead back to 16 and Brunson made sure the Bucks were never really threatened in the final minutes.
“They came out and played like they practiced and we talked about it,” said Lillard, who scored 32 points. “They played faster, they played with a lot of energy and I thought they had more team effort as well.”
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