PREVIEW: Milwaukee Bucks aim to bounce back against Knicks

Best and worst of the 2020-21 NBA season
Mar 23, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) reacts during the second half against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Julius Randle witnessed a portion of the New York Knicks’ comeback on Thursday while getting treatment for his upper right leg, and then he hit two clutch jumpers in the final minutes.

After the game, Randle emphatically vowed he was fine.

New York, firmly in the Eastern Conference playoff race, will return to the site of its worst performance since the All-Star break when it visits the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.

The Bucks, meanwhile, are coming off their first loss in more than three weeks.

Randle is coming off a rare off night as he scored 13 points, shot 5 of 16 and missed 10 consecutive shots at one point in New York’s 106-102 win over the Washington Wizards. As the Knicks started a 39-point fourth quarter and began rallying from a 17-point deficit, Randle was getting treatment and riding a stationary bike.

“My leg is sore, but I’ll be fine,” Randle said. “I’m not taking the night off (Saturday). Absolutely not. …

“I’ll be fine — my body usually recovers quick from stuff like that. I’m just glad we pushed through, showed toughness and came out with the win.”

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The Knicks were able to withstand a rare quiet night from Randle, who is second in the league in minutes per game, because of standout performances from Alec Burks and RJ Barrett.

Burks scored a season-high 27 points and is shooting 47.7 percent (31 of 65) over his past four games. Barrett added 24 points Thursday. In 10 games this month, he is averaging 21.1 points on 49.1 percent shooting.

The Knicks are playing their fifth game since the All-Star break against one of the top three teams in the East. They absorbed a 134-101 defeat in Milwaukee on March 11 when Randle was held to a season-low seven points, and they subsequently lost once to the Brooklyn Nets and twice to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Bucks saw an eight-game winning streak end with a 122-114 loss to the Boston Celtics on Friday, but they are still 13-2 in their past 15 games. Milwaukee hasn’t taken consecutive losses since a five-game skid from Feb. 10-18.

In their first loss since a 128-97 setback to the Denver Nuggets on March 2, the Bucks allowed the Celtics to shoot 48.9 percent from the floor and sink 22 3-pointers.

If there was one positive for the Bucks, it was the limited minutes logged by their starters. Khris Middleton led Milwaukee with 19 points in 29 minutes, Jrue Holiday added 17 in 28 minutes while Giannis Antetokounmpo was held to 16 in 27 minutes.

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The Bucks also played their game without some of their frontcourt depth. Bobby Portis sat out due to health and safety protocols and P.J. Tucker was sidelined due to a strained left calf.

“We just didn’t play good enough tonight — all of us — so it just felt like the right thing to do,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said of resting his starters. “I thought those bench guys were great. A lot of positives. Those guys work and prepare all the time. I was happy with how they finished the game. Sometimes you’ve got to go with that.”

The teams have traded a pair of lopsided wins this season. New York rolled to a 130-110 home win on Dec. 27 when Randle had 29 points and 14 rebounds.

–Field Level Media