MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 38 points and 13 rebounds and made numerous big plays in the fourth quarter to help the Milwaukee Bucks beat the New York Knicks 123-108 on Friday night.
“The ball was coming off his hands really good tonight from a lot of different places,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Antetokounmpo also had five assists a night after getting named an All-Star starter for a sixth consecutive season, tying the franchise record for selections. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar earned six of his 19 All-Star Game selections with the Bucks.
The Bucks never trailed as they won for the fourth time in five games and bounced back from a 115-99 loss at Cleveland. The Knicks have lost six of seven.
Jrue Holiday scored 24 points, Khris Middleton had 20 and Grayson Allen added 15 for the Bucks. Allen returned after serving a one-game suspension as punishment for a flagrant 2 foul that broke Alex Caruso’s right wrist, knocking out the Chicago guard for at least six to eight weeks.
Evan Fournier had 25 points, and R.J. Barrett 23 for the Knicks, though Barrett shot 6 of 20. Quentin Grimes had 11, and Alec Burks 10.
Burks opened the fourth-quarter scoring with a 3-pointer that cut Milwaukee’s lead to 93-91, but the Bucks responded with a 9-2 spurt. Antetokounmpo scored the last seven points in that run.
“At the beginning of the fourth, Giannis kind of took over a little bit,” Barrett said. “They just had a different intensity in the fourth that we weren’t able to match. But it’s good for a team like us, watching the defending champs to see how they raise their level, especially in that fourth quarter. We know what we’ve got to do to eventually get to that level.”
Antetokounmpo capped the 9-2 run with a 3-pointer that put the Bucks ahead 102-93 with 9:29 left.
Just over a minute later, Antetokounmpo got an offensive rebound and threw an off-balance, overhead, no-look pass to a wide-open Grayson Allen behind the 3-point arc. Allen calmly sank a 3-pointer that gave the Bucks an 11-point edge.
“He threw a pass you would see someone throw messing around in pregame or something like that, and it was right on the money,” Allen said. “He does ridiculous stuff like that all the time. I guess I learn to expect it.”
After trailing by 16 midway through the fourth quarter, the Knicks had cut the margin to 113-105 when Mitchell Robinson went to the foul line with 3:58 left. Robinson missed both free throws, and the Bucks eventually regained their double-digit advantage.
This game ended the regular-season series. The Bucks went 3-1 and won the last three meetings.
When Allen got suspended, the Bucks issued a statement saying they disagreed with the NBA’s decision. But Allen said after Friday’s game that he understood the reason for the punishment.
“I understand that the rules, a lot of it is about the result of the play, right?” Allen said. “The result of the play was a hard fall, and unfortunately Alex was injured, so the NBA felt there was a need for a suspension. I’m not going to say I disagree with it or anything like that. It is what it is. You just accept it. And now I’m back.”
Knicks: Nerlens Noel returned after missing the Knicks’ loss at Miami on Wednesday with a sore left knee. Noel had five points and five rebounds in 20 minutes. He lay on the floor for several seconds after apparently hurting himself late in the third quarter but got back up and remained in the game, though he appeared to be holding his wrist at times.
Bucks: Wesley Matthews returned after missing one game with a bruised left knee. Matthews scored two points in 14 minutes. … Rodney Hood was unavailable due to a sore Achilles tendon. “It’s just a little flare-up,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “The report I got, I think we’re confident that he’ll be available for Sunday, but we’ll see how it goes between now and Sunday.” … The Bucks shot 72.7% and scored 39 points in the opening period, their highest first-quarter point total of the season.
Knicks: Host Sacramento on Monday. The Knicks split two games with the Kings last season.
Bucks: Host Denver on Sunday. The Bucks won 120-109 at Denver on Nov. 26.