MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo has become a player the Milwaukee Bucks can lean on to flip the momentum of the game. He did so yet again Wednesday night.
With his team down double digits in the third quarter, Antetokounmpo took over. He scored 22 of his 32 points in the second half to help Milwaukee rally for a 104-93 win over the New York Knicks.
The Bucks extended their winning streak to four games with the victory, moving to within a half-game of Chicago and Detroit for the seventh and eighth playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
“It is just the competitive nature out of me,” Antetokounmpo said. “When they go on a run and are up 10 or up 12, I get really competitive. I feel I have to go right now. I don’t even think about it. It just comes naturally.”
Antetokounmpo also added 13 rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Khris Middleton finished with 18 points and Greg Monroe had 17.
“He started taking over the game,” Monroe said of Antetokounmpo. “His energy level and his effort level went up and everybody on the team followed. He’s been doing a great job all year but tonight, he definitely led us.”
The Bucks began the third quarter missing 13 of their first 14 shots and the Knicks built a 69-57 lead on a pair of free throws by Courtney Lee with 5:53 left in the third quarter.
Milwaukee then closed the period with a 19-4 run to take a 76-73 advantage into the fourth quarter.
“We started getting stops and then we started to score,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “We thought it was going to be a little easy but New York kept playing. To start the third, there was a lid on the basket but we kept playing defense and that’s what got us the lead.”
Antetokounmpo scored nine points during the spurt, while Monroe had seven points. A 3-pointer by Matthew Dellavedova put Milwaukee up 93-83 with 6:51 to play.
“They had a lot of transition, which hurt us,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “Giannis is long and takes those long strides. Once he got that head of steam going we weren’t getting back and helping the guy back. The one guy back there looked like he was on an island as Giannis was attacking.”
Derrick Rose led the Knicks with 26 points, scoring 20 of them in the second half. He was 13 of 16 from the field. Carmelo Anthony scored 16 points in his return after a one-game absence but had just six points in the second half.
“We didn’t move the ball and get it to the open person,” Rose said. “When you are not moving the ball against a long team like this it is hard because they switch everything. You need ball movement.”
Knicks: Anthony returned after missing Monday’s game against Orlando with a sore left knee. … Willy Hernangomez moved into the New York starting lineup in place of Lance Thomas. He scored 13 points in the first half but had none in the second half. … Rose hit his first nine shot attempts in the second half.
Bucks: Michael Beasley missed his fifth straight game with a hyperextended left knee. … Terrence Jones did not play for the third straight game after signing with Milwaukee on March 4. … Milwaukee outscored New York in the paint 50-32.
Knicks: At Detroit on Saturday. New York has not won at the Palace of Auburn Hills since a double-overtime victory on Feb. 27, 2015.
Bucks: Host Indiana on Friday. Milwaukee is 2-0 against the Pacers this season, winning 125-107 at home on Nov. 3 and 116-100 at Indiana on Feb. 11.