The good news for the New York Knicks is their losing streak is over. The bad news? The Milwaukee Bucks are next on the schedule and Giannis Antetokounmpo is feeling better.
The Knicks will look to build a rare winning streak Tuesday when they visit the Bucks in the final game of the season between the Eastern Conference clubs.
Both teams are coming off victories.
The Knicks snapped a five-game losing streak Sunday afternoon when they overcame a 14-point second-half deficit to edge the visiting Miami Heat 124-121. The NBA-leading Bucks earned their third straight victory Saturday when they capped a four-game Western Conference road swing with a 122-101 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Knicks, who entered Monday with the third-worst record in the NBA at 11-29, appeared headed for another discouraging loss as they fell into the double-digit hole in the third quarter. But New York, whose three previous losses came by a combined 66 points, stunned the Heat by outscoring the team tied for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference 40-23 in the fourth quarter.
“It’s huge,” rookie guard RJ Barrett told reporters following the victory. “They’re really one of the best teams in the league. We were able to fight it out and get one.”
With the win, the Knicks improved to 7-11 since David Fizdale was fired as head coach Dec. 6 and replaced by Mike Miller.
“I just told the guys I’m so happy for them, so proud of them for hanging in there and battling back,” Miller said afterward. “We bent a couple times but didn’t break.”
The task will likely be tougher Tuesday against a healthier Antetokounmpo and the well-rested Bucks (35-6), who have won more games at the halfway point of the season than the Knicks have in any of the previous five seasons.
“Thirty-five wins, man, this is crazy,” Antetokounmpo said Saturday night. “I’m really happy about this, the way we’ve been playing.”
Antetokounmpo was particularly happy Saturday night. After being hampered by a sore back and averaging 22.3 points — more than seven points below his season average — during the first three games of the road trip, the 6-foot-11 hybrid guard/forward scored 13 points in the first quarter against the Trail Blazers. He finished with 32 points and 17 rebounds while adding six assists in a mere 29 minutes.
The 13 first-quarter points matched Antetokounmpo’s total for the entire game Friday, when the Bucks beat the Sacramento Kings 127-106
“I guess nobody’s probably ever 100-percent healthy, but I think he wanted to put a statement on the game,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said.
“Giannis was very good (Friday) night, but he probably wasn’t his super Giannis that we’re all used to. So I think whenever he has one of those games, you feel like he’s going to come out and play with force in the first quarter, want to put a different spin on the game. And he definitely did that.”
–Field Level Media