Last night in Milwaukee, the Knicks may have saved their season, and it’s not because the victory snapped their six-game losing streak. Instead, it’s the way they won this game – after suffering their toughest loss of the season – that may turn this ship in the right direction.
A Roller Coaster Win May Turn the Knicks Season Around
After a close first quarter, the game turned into a game of runs. First, the Bucks dominated the second quarter. They got to the basket at will and shot the ball extremely well from the perimeter, including a hitting their first eight shots from downtown.
On the other hand, the Knicks became sloppy and stagnant. They committed eleven turnovers in the second quarter. Their big men, Joakim Noah and Kristaps Porzingis, committed three fouls each before the half. And the offense became very stagnant. At one point, they had only scored a total of ten points in the quarter. However, after going down by 18 with about three minutes left to play, the Knicks started to make baskets and finished the quarter strong. The Bucks still outscored the Knicks 32-21 in this quarter, ending the half with the Bucks leading the game 65-53.
Coming out of the half, the Knicks built on their momentum at the end of the second quarter. They opened the quarter on a 15-4 run, cutting the Bucks 12-point halftime lead to one. But then it was the Bucks turn, as they would go on a 11-0 run in the next two minutes to go up by 12 again. Things looked very bleak for this Knicks team and were headed towards their seventh straight loss. The Knicks would enter the fourth quarter down 13.
In the fourth, Coach Hornacek made an interesting move. He brought Ron Baker off the bench to replace Rose at the point. This move paid off in a big way. With the Bucks finishing off the third quarter strong, it was the Knicks turn to go on another run. They outscored the Bucks 14-2 to cut the lead to one again, and kept the game close. Then with 51 seconds to play, Carmelo Anthony hit a three-point shot from straight on to put the Knicks up 112-111, and they would never relinquish the lead.
More Than Just an Ordinary Victory
This was a gutty, gritty, and character-building win. The way they won may turn their season around. First, Porzingis returned to the floor, and contributed in a big way. He shot the ball extremely well from the field, including connecting on three out of four from downtown. In an important sequence in the fourth quarter with the Knicks down seven, he hit a three, blocked two shots by Giannis Antetokounmpo, and then hit another three from five feet behind the arc in front of Antetokounmpo. He is emerging into a superstar and should be featured more going forward.
Secondly, rookie Ron Baker played the whole fourth quarter. Baker was not intimidated by the big moment. He drew a Flagrant 1 foul. He hit both free throws and the Knicks gained possession. He would go on to score six points and contribute four assists. Baker portrayed poise and got the ball to his teammates in the right position. It was very interesting to see Rose and Jennings watch from the bench in crunch time. Coach Hornacek may have lit some fire under his veteran players by opting to play the rookie.
Finally, the Knicks defense showed up in the fourth quarter. Even with Noah and Porzingis fouling out of the game, the defense tightened up. They would outscore the Bucs 33-15 in the final period. Bucks had to work harder for their shots. And the Knicks came away with timely steals, including Lance Thomas’ steal on Antetokounmpo which would result in a fast break dunk for Courtney Lee. With the losing streak snapped, the Knicks need to carry the fourth quarter defensive play going forward.
This is the type of win the Knicks needed. Sometimes it takes something crazy to happen to break a losing streak. That happened last night. Everything was going against the Knicks in that second quarter, and felt like a typical road loss for the Knicks.
The Knicks play again tonight. On the year, they are 0-6 in a second of a back-to-back. This made last night’s win was so vital. They showed fight, will, and effort to come back and win that game. Just maybe, we can point back to this night and say their season turned around that night.