The New York Knicks forget to bring the defense on the road as they fall to the Milwaukee Bucks in blowout fashion.
The New York Knicks went into the All-Star break with all the momentum in the world. Whatever momentum they had must have missed the flight back from Turks and Caicos.
High-energy defense has been a constant for the Knicks in Tom Thibodeau‘s first year as head coach. That wasn’t the case against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night. The defense was shaky, Giannis Antetokounmpo dominated Julius Randle, and there may be trouble ahead with the schedule.
Here are three highlights and three observations from New York’s 134-101 loss to Milwaukee on Thursday night.
Highlight 1: RJ Barrett Slam
RJ Barrett for the 2022 Dunk Contest pic.twitter.com/hAEEAN1AD9
— Danny Small (@dwsmall8) March 12, 2021
Highlight 2: The Greek Freak
THE. GREEK. FREAK!! pic.twitter.com/5HJMANewfw
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 12, 2021
Highlight 3: Obi Toppin Raindrop
Something about this just so satisfying pic.twitter.com/xrwr4dWn3s
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) March 12, 2021
Observation 1: Rusty Defense
The Knicks entered this game ranked second in the NBA in defensive rating (108.1), but they could have fooled us. The Knicks allowed a season-high 134 and let Giannis Antetokounmpo run wild (more on him later). Antetokounmpo going off is one thing — he’s the two-time reigning MVP and one of the most dominant forces in basketball.
The three-point barrage from Milwaukee is much more concerning. The Knicks have built their defense from the inside out, protecting the paint first and foremost. That means teams will have looks from deep. The Bucks hit 18 threes on 38 attempts.
We have been waiting for the other shoe to drop with the three-point shooting for a while. Granted, Milwaukee is one of the better shooting teams in the league — fourth in percentage and ninth in attempts in the NBA. This could just be a blip on the radar, but it’s a concerning sign nonetheless.
Observation 2: All-Star Meltdown
The Knicks and Bucks each had one representative in this year’s All-Star Game. Randle followed up his first All-Star appearance with one of his worst games of the year. On the flip side, Antetokounmpo followed up his first All-Star Game MVP with a 24-point triple-double on 8-for-12 shooting.
Randle looked completely out of whack against Antetokounmpo. He finished with a season-low seven points on 3-for-12 shooting. This was a brutal way to start the second half of the year, but now it’s up to Randle to bounce back on Saturday against Oklahoma City.
Observation 3: Trouble Ahead?
The Knicks are playing meaningful games post-All-Star break, which is a legitimate step forward for the organization, but the goal should be to play meaningful games in April and May. The upcoming schedule does the Knicks no favors.
New York will travel to Oklahoma City on Saturday before returning to the Big Apple to play the Nets in the Barclays Center on Monday. They finish out this “road trip” with the 76ers the very next night.
It’s not a brutal road trip when it comes to traveling, but the quality of the opponents is high. After all, the Bucks, Nets, and Sixers are the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference as of Friday morning.