The Milwaukee Bucks extended their winning streak to four games Tuesday night with a 128-102 home victory over the New York Knicks at Fiserv Forum.
After beating the Knicks by 44 and 21 points, respectively, in their first two meetings, Milwaukee had the added benefit of facing a New York team without leading scorer Marcus Morris Sr. (19.1 points per game), who is dealing with a neck injury, as well as point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who hasn't played since before Christmas because of an oblique issue.
The win caps off a 10-game run in which the Bucks matched up against teams below .500, having dropped just one game during the stretch—a 126-104 defeat in San Antonio on Jan. 6.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, PF, Bucks: 37 points, nine rebounds, four assists
- Khris Middleton, SF, Bucks: 17 points, three rebounds, three assists
- RJ Barrett, SG, Knicks: 22 points, eight rebounds, three assists
- Julius Randle, PF, Knicks: 25 points, 15 rebounds, three assists
Bucks Empty Bench Against Knicks
This one was pretty much over before it started, so the Bucks needed to find a way to make these 48 minutes useful.
Enter Milwaukee's bench players. All of them. Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer used 13 players total Tuesday night. None played fewer than 10 minutes. It's exactly how a veteran coach should take advantage of an opponent as inferior as the Knicks.
The guys in the rotation did their jobs with ease, which meant it was on the farther end of the bench to prove they were worth the minutes. Guard Donte DiVincenzo did so by shooting four-of-eight from the floor to finish with nine points, four assists and three rebounds in 17 minutes.
Dragan Bender was less impressive, missing all three of his shots while grabbing seven rebounds in 21 minutes.
Pat Connaughton wasn't able to do much with his 19 minutes, but he did finish with a sweet slam dunk that pumped up his teammates.
That's the thing about these games. They aren't always going to go well for the guys who end up getting more minutes than they're used to. But in the "next man up" NBA, those depth players need to prove they're ready at a moment's notice.
While beating the Knicks was as close to a foregone conclusion as there is this season, the Bucks needed to use this opportunity to asses their depth as the February 6 trade deadline approaches. For a team with title aspirations, there's no such thing as a night off. Not even against New York.
Barrett and Randle Bright Spots for Knicks
To play for the Knicks at their worst is an opportunity to prove you deserve to be there at their best. That's where RJ Barrett and Julius Randle find themselves. This season may be lost, but eventually the Knicks will start trending in the right direction and the rookie-veteran duo can be a big part of it.
That much was evident as they were the only two constants for New York's starters all night—forward Bobby Portis tallied 20 points, eight rebounds from the bench. Randle is still just 25 years old and in the first season of a three-year, $62.1 million deal in New York. He was able to both challenge Giannis Antetokounmpo in the paint and pop out to hit a corner three.
Randle can be a solid piece of depth for New York whenever they climb out of the NBA's cellar, and he proved it again against the Bucks.
Barrett, 19, shouldn't be going anywhere, either. The third overall pick in the 2019 draft is only starting to figure out what he brings to the league. This is a season where he'll only want to focus on the positives—especially after head coach David Fizdale was fired after 22 games. Playing through a coaching change is tough for any organization. When you play in New York, it's amplified.
Whatever the Knicks look like in the coming years, the 2019-20 season can best be remembered by who emerged as a building block. Randle and Barrett can certainly be those pieces.
Milwaukee will face a serious challenge Thursday night when the Boston Celtics visit Fiserv Forum. The Bucks then have a quick turnaround before playing the Nets in Brooklyn on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Knicks will return to Madison Square Garden for a two-game homestand against the Phoenix Suns on Thursday and Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.