Antetokounmpo has a big game, the Bucks beat the Knicks 123-108 | Basketball

By STEVE MEGARGEE – AP Sportswriter

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 38 points and 13 rebounds and made plenty of big plays in the fourth quarter to help the Milwaukee Bucks beat the New York Knicks 123-108 on Friday night.

“The ball was coming out of his hands really well tonight from a lot of different places,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Antetokounmpo also had five assists a night after being named an All-Star starter for a sixth straight season, tying the franchise record for picks. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has earned six of his 19 All-Star Game selections with the Bucks.

The Bucks never trailed as they won for the fourth time in five games and bounced back from a 115-99 loss at Cleveland. The Knicks have lost six of seven.

Jrue Holiday scored 24 points, Khris Middleton had 20 and Grayson Allen added 15 for the Bucks. Allen returned after serving a one-game suspension as punishment for a flagrant 2 foul that broke Alex Caruso’s right wrist, knocking out the Chicago guard for at least six to eight weeks.

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Evan Fournier had 25 points and RJ Barrett 23 for the Knicks, though Barrett shot 6 of 20. Quentin Grimes had 11 and Alec Burks 10.

Burks opened the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer that cut Milwaukee’s lead to 93-91, but the Bucks responded with a 9-2 surge. Antetokounmpo scored the last seven points of this race.

“At the start of the fourth, Giannis kind of took over,” Barrett said. “They just had a different intensity in the fourth that we couldn’t match. But it’s good for a team like ours, to watch the defending champions to see how they are raising their level, especially in this fourth quarter. We know what we need to do to eventually reach that level.

Antetokounmpo capped the race 9-2 with a 3-pointer which put the Bucks ahead 102-93 with 9:29 to go.

A little over a minute later, Antetokounmpo got an offensive rebound and threw a lopsided, airy, no-look pass to a wide-open Grayson Allen behind the 3-point arc. Allen calmly sank a 3-pointer that gave the Bucks an 11-point advantage.

“He threw a pass that you’d see someone throw pre-game or something, and it was just for the money,” Allen said. “He does ridiculous stuff like that all the time. I guess I’m learning to expect it.

After trailing by 16 midway through the fourth quarter, the Knicks had narrowed the margin to 113-105 when Mitchell Robinson went to the foul line with 3:58 left. Robinson missed both free throws and the Bucks eventually regained their double-digit advantage.

This game ended the regular season series. The Bucks have gone 3-1 and won the last three meetings.

When Allen was suspended, the Bucks released a statement saying they disagreed with the NBA’s decision. But Allen said after Friday’s game he understood the reason for the punishment.

“I understand that the rules, in large part, are about the outcome of the game, right?” Allen said. “The result of the game was a hard fall, and unfortunately Alex got hurt, so the NBA felt there was a need for a suspension. I’m not going to say I disagree with that or anything like that. That’s how it is. You just accept it. And now I’m back.

Knicks: Nerlens Noel returned after missing the Knicks’ loss to Miami on Wednesday with left knee pain. Noel had five points and five rebounds in 20 minutes. He lay on the ground for several seconds after apparently hurting himself late in the third quarter, but got up and stayed in the game, although he appeared to be clutching his wrist at times.

Bucks: Wesley Matthews returned after missing a game with a bruised left knee. Matthews scored two points in 14 minutes. … Rodney Hood was unavailable due to Achilles tendon pain. “It’s just a little push,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “From the report I received, I think we are confident he will be available on Sunday, but we will see how it goes by Sunday.” … The Bucks shot 72.7 percent and scored 39 points in the first period, their highest first-quarter point total of the season.

Knicks: Host Sacramento on Monday. The Knicks shared two games with the Kings last season.

Bucks: Host Denver on Sunday. The Bucks won 120-109 in Denver on Nov. 26.

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