NEW YORK — The New York Knicks lost their first three games to the Milwaukee Bucks this season, but on Christmas Day, Jalen Brunson played like a man determined to prevent that streak from extending to four.
Brunson finished with 38 points, the most by a Knicks player on Christmas Day since Bernard King’s record 60 points in 1984, to lead New York to a 129-122 victory over Milwaukee. The Knicks’ victory ended the Bucks’ seven-game winning streak.
“We’ve struggled against this team throughout this year and the fact that we got a win today is special,” Brunson said after the game. “I like how we had a lead no matter how much they cut it. We stayed calm and found a way to hold on to it and win.”
After losing to the Bucks on Saturday afternoon, the Knicks were aggressive in the first quarter on Monday. They scored 36 points in the period, their highest total in the first quarter of the season, and never trailed after that.
Four Knicks – Brunson, Julius Randle (24), RJ Barrett (21) and Immanuel Quickley (20) – scored at least 20 points, becoming the second team in the last 50 years to do so on Game Day. Christmas, thus joining the 2012 edition. Rockets, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“We had a lot of guys in double figures and a lot of assists,” Quickley said. “It was fun to play like that when everyone is moving and touching (the ball). I think our defense really bled into our offense, so it has to be like that every night.”
New York earned a victory despite Milwaukee getting a total of 88 points from its Big 3 consisting of Giannis Antetokounmpo (32), Damian Lillard (32) and Khris Middleton (24).
“They came out and played like they practiced and talked about it,” Lillard said. “They played faster, they played with a lot of energy and I thought they also had a bigger team effort. A lot of guys contributed to the victory. We could have done a lot of things better and we’re happy with that. give it a bit of a chance at the end, but it was just too late.”
Although the Bucks cut the Knicks’ lead to just four points in the fourth quarter, Brunson’s performance was too much to overcome. He scored or assisted on 51 points and created 18 points on his drives, and his teammates shot 6 of 11 on his passes, according to ESPN Stats & Info. He scored 15 baskets, including 11 contested.
Brunson has had a lot of success against Milwaukee this season despite New York going 1-3 in those four games, averaging 35.8 points.
“I had a little more energy today and it showed…from start to finish,” Brunson said.
“A lot of times in our reporting, (Brunson was) able to get to his spots, but we were still able to control the game as a whole,” Lillard said. “But sometimes when a guy starts rolling and he starts feeling comfortable and he starts feeling good, when the game gets close, that can be a problem.”
Still, the Bucks were happy to escape New York with a split this weekend.
“It was kind of like a playoff game,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’ve played this team four times in the last month, month and a half. Twice in the last few days.
“It’s a good test for us. We’re going to play two teams in the playoffs (on the road), so to be able to win the first one and lose the second one is good. We’ll learn from it.”
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