A dominant performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo has led the Milwaukee Bucks to their fourth straight win with a 104-93 victory over the New York Knicks.
The Greek Freak finished with 32 points and 13 rebounds as the Bucks now sit just one game outside the eighth seed with less than 20 games remaining.
Ten of those points came from the free-throw line, which Giannis credited to his “competitive” nature.
“They’re easy points for me and my team. I try to draw as many fouls as I can. It’s free shots, easy points. So hopefully as we move forward we can get better.”
It was a game of runs as the Knicks were forced to come back from an early 11 point deficit to eventually lead at halftime.
Jeff Hornacek’s men started the game poorly, turning over possession five times inside the first five minutes.
Unsurprisingly, it was Antetokounmpo who came up with four of those steals.
But the Knicks were never quite out of it, with back-to-back and-1’s to Carmelo Anthony followed by a patented Derrick Rose midrange jumpshot quickly erasing the deficit.
The Knicks improved significantly in the second quarter, only turning the ball over once as Rose continued to torment the Bucks defence from just inside the three-point line.
But it was Khris Middleton who kept Milwaukee in the game, having shot 6/7 from the field, including a trio three-pointers.
And Giannis was full of praise after the game.
“He can defend, he can shoot the ball, he can make plays. He’s a leader and he talks to everybody. He’s one of the best players on the team and he plays clean basketball. Having him back is a bonus and having him back gets everyone’s confidence up.”
“He spaces the floor, he draws attention out there. He’s a threat out there. It’s definitely a bonus.”
A slender one-point lead at the half ballooned out further as the Bucks began the second half shooting 1/14 from the field.
The Knicks took full advantage, starting the half on an 11-2 run before Jason Kidd quickly called timeout.
But Antetokounmpo was proud of his team and their effort following the timeout despite their shortcomings on offence.
“We did a great job defensively and we worked hard. Usually when that happens, when we don’t shoot the ball well, we stop defending. But I think right now we have been defending great and we played team basketball and maintained our composure.”
The break in play seemed to work wonders for the Bucks, who then went on a 9-0 run to finish the quarter firmly in the driver’s seat.
Milwaukee continued where they left off, opening the quarter with an 11-4 run of their own, establishing a double-digit lead for just the second time in the game.
And it was too late for the Knicks, who are now 13 games under .500.
The only bright spot for New York would have to be Derrick Rose who finished with 26 points on 81% shooting.
A 7-0 run with just over three minutes remaining iced the game for the Bucks, who now host the Pacers Friday night.
The Knicks meanwhile travel to Detroit for a clash with the Pistons on Saturday night.