Bucks’ playoff hopes take a beating
In fact, if the Milwaukee Bucks don’t make the playoffs, they will look back at games like their 120-112 loss to the New York Knicks on Tuesday at the Bradley Center as one of the major reasons why.
The Bucks led by nine at halftime only to see the Knicks turn up the juice in the second half and play with an intensity that the Bucks failed to match. The Bucks are now 1-1 on their six-game home stand and 30-37 overall. New York is 26-37.
“It’s a game we should have won,” said Bucks guard Charlie Bell, who scored 12 points. “I still feel that we’re a better team than they are but they just came and played harder. We’re going to look back at games like this, if we miss the playoffs by one or two games. These are the kinds of games that are going to come back and haunt us. This one and the New Jersey game, games at home that we’re supposed to go out and take care of business, and we’re not doing it.”
Said forward Charlie Villanueva, “In the second half, they turned it up and we couldn’t turn it up ourselves. We’re still in (the playoff race). Games like this we definitely needed to win. It was a tough one but all we can do now is concentrate on the next one.”
Villanueva led the Bucks with 32 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and nine rebounds and guard Ramon Sessions finished with 22 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Milwaukee shot 11 fewer foul shots and made 12 fewer than New York. The Knicks scored 25 points off 16 Milwaukee turnovers.
The Bucks led at halftime, 65-56, only to get outscored, 22-6, in the first 6 minutes of the third quarter. The Knicks led by six early in the fourth quarter, but the Bucks came back to take a 99-98 lead on a rebound-basket by Francisco Elson with 4:17 left. But New York guard Nate Robinson countered with a three-point play and then a short jumper, and New York led the rest of the way.
Guard Larry Hughes sank 5 three-point baskets and led New York with 39 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. Robinson scored 13 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter. Center David Lee finished with 19 points and 18 rebounds and helped New York win the intensity battle.
“You’ve got to have (intensity),” said Keith Bogans, who had nine points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench for the Bucks. “You’ve got to have it at this point of the season. The position we’re in, you can’t take a break. We’re not playing with the intensity we need to play with at this time of the season. We’ve got to turn it up.”
The Bucks started well enough as Villanueva made his first four shots and scored the Bucks’ first eight points. Milwaukee later ran off nine straight to take a 21-13 lead with 4:35 left. The Bucks, shooting 56.5 percent, led after one quarter, 31-29.
Coach Scott Skiles, though, didn’t like everything he was seeing and took Villanueva out 3 minutes into the game—once he had made those four shots—after Al Harrington scored a fast-break layup for New York. Villanueva returned with 1:33 left in the first quarter.
“I figure Coach took me out because I didn’t go back fast enough in transition, I guess,” Villanueva said.
A three-pointer by Bell was part of a 7-0 Bucks run that opened the second quarter and another three by Bell gave Milwaukee a 41-33 lead. The Bucks extended their lead to 10 but again the Knicks came back as a pair of three-pointers by Hughes helped the Knicks tie the score at 50-50 with 4:53 left.
New York then turned it up in the second half.
“In the second half they took it to us,” Bell said. “You have to give credit where credit is due. They came out and played harder and wanted it more than us.”