MILWAUKEE — Derek Fisher lauded the growing stability of his core three players before the game Saturday evening. Bucks coach Jason Kidd quietly laid out the plan for how he would navigate three injured point guards and a two-game skid.
It looked like the recipe for a rout.
Just not in this direction.
The Bucks’ desperation proved greater than the Knicks’ stability, as the Knicks fell, 106-91 at the Bradley Center to fall under .500.
The third quarter was punctuated by Jabari Parker’s booming slam over the heads of Carmelo Anthony and Jose Calderon — the product of Kristaps Porzingis’ bad pass on the other side of the floor, his fourth turnover of the game. Parker’s jumper 30 seconds later, with 7:11 left, opened up a 20-point advantage and a technical on Calderon made it 73-52, the Bucks’ largest lead of the game.
That capped a 15-0 run that began with Greg Monroe’s driving layup with 9:24 left in the third quarter. The Bucks outscored the Knicks 29-21 in the frame.
Michael Carter-Williams led all scorers with 20 points, Monroe had 18 points and 14 rebounds, while O.J. Mayo earned his nickname. “Juice” had five assists with 17 points while starting at the point for Jerryd Bayless (ankle) . . . and Tyler Ennis (shoulder) and Greivis Vasquez (ankle).
“We have quite a few guys that can handle the ball,” Kidd said about starting Mayo. “Being able to be consistent in our energy and effort is what we’re looking for.”
It also marked a return to the starting lineup for Parker, who scored 17 points. Melo led the Knicks with 18. The Knicks (10-11) had their two-game win streak snapped.
The Knicks drew to within two at multiple points in the second quarter but struggled to get into any sort of rhythm. Robin Lopez’s driving layup with 2:26 left in the half got them to within 44-42, but that was greeted by six straight points from the Bucks — a stretch interrupted by Porzingis’ putback, a one-handed slap that momentarily stunned the crowd. The Bucks went into the break with a 52-48 lead, scoring 10 of those points on turnovers. The Knicks had five players with two fouls by halftime, including Aaron Afflalo, Anthony and Porzingis, who accrued his fifth with eight minutes left.
They also didn’t have much of an answer for Monroe, who scored 14 in the first half, and added seven rebounds. He scored six of the Bucks’ first 10 in the game.
It was an unexpected start for a Knicks team that’s lately been thriving in the early stretches. Before the game, Fisher noted that they were working toward having a more even-handed offense — over-reliance on Anthony has bitten them early this season — and Afflalo and Porzignis were making strides in that direction. Though it was “easier said than done,” Fisher said he believed Afflalo was “getting more comfortable, just physically after missing the preseason and the training camp.”
“He gets more aggressive, which is giving Carmelo a lot of comfort and confidence that he can still play his game but there’s another guy out there that can bring some aggression and some thrust to our game,” he said. “And then Kristaps as a rookie is evolving, finding his opportunities when they’re there and it’s providing a good balance for us and making it easier for other guys to play around those three.”
But for a night where both teams went off-script, that didn’t much matter.