The Knicks’ tailspin continued on Sunday afternoon when they were thoroughly thumped by the Milwaukee Bucks, 112-97, at Madison Square Garden for their sixth loss over their last seven games.
Despite the loss, Sunday very well could have been Quentin Grimes’ coming-out party as the guard set a franchise record in points and three-pointers when he posted 27 points on 9-of-17 shooting, including a 7-of-12 showing from beyond the arc.
The Knicks were shorthanded on Sunday as RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin were sidelined due to COVID protocols while Alec Burks was absent because of personal reasons.
It forced Tom Thibodeau to give extended looks to Grimes and the normally-out-of-favor Kevin Knox, who had played just 22 minutes in six games prior to Sunday’s action.
Knox filled in admirably, too, recording 18 points in 29 minutes while Derrick Rose added 18 points and seven assists.
What the Knicks had remaining was a team misfiring on all cylinders that left head coach Tom Thibodeau stewing on the sidelines throughout the afternoon.
Julius Randle was invisible offensively as he continues struggling with the balance of offensive aggression and facilitation. He shot just 2-of-9 from the field for eight points to go with 10 rebounds and seven assists.
The Knicks turned the ball over nine times alone in the first half as sloppy play punctuated a deficit that grew to as much as 21 in the second quarter. It was the fifth time in the last six games that the Knicks trailed by at least 20 points.
Grimes started well, sinking five of his first seven shot attempts for 13 points. Meanwhile, Knox attempted nine shots in his first nine minutes on the floor — sinking a pair of threes on his way to eight points in the opening 24 minutes.
But Grimes was careless with possession, committing four turnovers in the first half as Milwaukee’s transition game ran rampant on the Knicks. Khris Middleton, Bobby Portis, and Giannis Antetokounmpo combined for 40 first-half points for the Bucks — just eight fewer than what the Knicks posted as an entire team as they faced a 13-point deficit at the break.
Middleton led the Bucks with 24 points on Sunday while Antetokounmpo added 20 with 11 assists and nine rebounds.
Randle, who attempted just four shots in the first half, didn’t get his first points until he hit a three-pointer with 5:37 left in the second quarter.
Grimes continued trying to pick up the slack, coming out red-hot in the third quarter by sinking four consecutive three-pointers to bring his day’s total (25) up to one more point than his entire season output.
A Derrick Rose three-pointer moments later cut the Knicks’ deficit to just nine with eight minutes to go in the third.
Despite the Knicks shooting nearly 50% from the floor in the third quarter, the Bucks kept them at bay rather comfortably, carrying a 14-point lead into the final quarter as the host’s defense didn’t offer much resistance.
Things didn’t get better in the fourth quarter as the defending champions reminded Madison Square Garden why they’re still one of the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference, pulling away with ease for the comfortable victory.