The Milwaukee Bucks, fueled by Giannis Antetokounmpo's impressive performance, triumphed over the New York Knicks in a high-scoring game, securing their spot in the semifinals of the NBA's first-ever In-Season Tournament.
A Night of High Scores and Stellar Performances
Antetokounmpo led the charge with 35 points and 10 assists, while Damian Lillard added 28 points, showcasing the team's offensive prowess. The Bucks set a season-high in scoring, shooting an impressive 60.5% from the 3-point range and 60.4% overall.
This victory sets them up for a challenging matchup against Indiana in Las Vegas. Coach Adrian Griffin expressed his satisfaction with the team's performance, likening the game's atmosphere to that of a playoff. "Tonight our team was the better team.
Our bench was terrific and I thought the crowd was terrific. It had all the makings of a playoff game,” Griffin said. He anticipates a robust challenge from the Pacers in the next round, confident in his team's abilities.
Lillard, reflecting on the significance of the tournament, said, “You come out of this thing on top, I think it’s a pretty strong statement and something that everybody around the league has to respect”.
Knicks' Struggle and the Bucks' March Forward
Despite a season-high 41 points from Julius Randle, the Knicks couldn't match the Bucks' offensive might. Jalen Brunson and R.J. Barrett also contributed significantly, but their efforts weren't enough to extend their three-game winning streak.
Brunson acknowledged the team's defensive shortcomings, stressing the need to disrupt the Bucks' rhythm. The game had a tense moment early on when Antetokounmpo had an injury scare, but he quickly recovered, contributing significantly to the Bucks' early lead.
After a closely contested first half, the Bucks surged ahead in the third quarter, leading by as many as 27 points in the fourth. This allowed Griffin to give playing time to bench players, including Antetokounmpo's brother, Thanasis, and Robin Lopez.
Lillard reflected on the Bucks' offensive potential, suggesting that the team could have scored even more. “We missed free throws. We missed some shots in the paint. It could have easily been a 165-point game," he said.