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SPORTS

Brunson Scores 43 as Knicks Rally in 2nd Half to Beat Slumping Bucks 122-109

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Jalen Brunson had trouble explaining just why he’s always so productive against the Milwaukee Bucks.

It’s about the only time the New York Knicks guard struggled Sunday on a night when he flustered the Bucks once again.

Brunson scored 43 points and the Knicks surged in the second half to win 122-109 and hand the Bucks their fourth consecutive loss. Brunson is averaging 37.2 points in five games against the Bucks this season.

“I don’t know,” Brunson said. “The ball goes through the hoop against them. I’m averaging 37, but we’re 2-3 (against the Bucks). Before tonight, we were 1-3. So no matter what the points was, we weren’t getting wins. Obviously tonight we found a way to win the game. Their game plan was working for the first three of four games.”

Brunson’s ninth 40-point game of the season put him in sole possession of third place on the Knicks’ single-season list. Bernard King had a team-record 13 games with 40 or more in 1984-85.

The Bucks are facing their longest losing streak of the season and also have dropped six of their last seven. Milwaukee is a game ahead of the Knicks and Orlando Magic in the race for the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 playoff seed behind the Boston Celtics.

At least this loss came to a team with a winning record. The Bucks’ current slide started with losses to the Washington Wizards, Memphis Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors, who are all well below .500.

“We’re not a losing team,” Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “We don’t have that mentality. That’s not in us. … This is not what we do. We’ve got to be better.”

Antetokounmpo had 28 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists in his return to action after missing the Bucks’ 117-111 loss to the Raptors on Friday due to an issue with his left hamstring. This marked just the fourth time in the last 29 games that the Bucks’ top three players – Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton – were all available.

But they wouldn’t all make it to the end of the game. Middleton got hit in the face midway through the second quarter and didn’t play the rest of the night.

Middleton fell to the floor after New York’s Donte DiVincenzo inadvertently hit him in the face. As Middleton was lying on his stomach, Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein fell after hitting a shot and landed on the Bucks forward’s back.

The three-time All-Star headed to the locker room with blood coming from his mouth. Bucks coach Doc Rivers said Middleton got a tooth knocked out and was visiting a dentist after the game.

“You just feel bad for him,” Rivers said. “The guy can’t catch a break.”

Without Middleton on the floor, Brunson and the Knicks rallied. He also had eight assists and six rebounds.

DiVincenzo scored 26 points and Hartenstein added 18 points and 10 rebounds. Josh Hart had seven points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

Bobby Portis scored 24 points and Lillard had 23 for the Bucks.

After trailing 61-50 at halftime, the Knicks surged in front by outscoring the Bucks 20-6 over the first six minutes of the third quarter.

DiVincenzo hit two free throws with 6:58 left in the third to put the Knicks ahead for the first time since they had a 6-5 advantage less than four minutes into the game.

The Knicks wouldn’t trail again.

“This team is too talented, in my opinion, to go through this,” Rivers said. “No matter who’s been in and out, every team has guys out. And so I’ve got to figure that out.”

UP NEXT

Knicks: Visit the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.

Bucks: Host the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.


By STEVE MEGARGEE AP Sports Writer

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