Bucks cruise past Knicks behind Antetokounmpo’s 37 points

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t looking at the scoreboard.

Even though the Milwaukee Bucks led by 25 points at halftime on Tuesday night, the reigning MVP maintained his focus in the third quarter and put the finishing touches on a 128-102 victory over the New York Knicks.

Antetokounmpo had 17 points in just more than six minutes as Milwaukee scored 43 in the period and romped past the Knicks, sweeping the three-game season series and improving to a league-best 36-6.

“I’m just trying to be aggressive and trying to make plays,” Antetokounmpo said. “When you come out with the mindset to make the lead go 20 or 30 or 40, that’s when you mess up the lead.

“You’ve just got to keep doing your job, and then you look up and see you lead by 30. Then you’re like, ‘OK, we did our job so now we can sit.’”

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and New York Knicks’ Bobby Portis go after a loose ball. PHOTO: AP

Antetokounmpo did all his work in just 21 minutes, sinking 12 of 17 field goal attempts and 10 of 12 free throws while adding nine rebounds and four assists.

The highlight of his night was getting fouled on a three-pointer in the third quarter, the first time that had happened to him since he was playing in the second division in Greece.

Antetokounmpo made all three free throws after being fouled by Mitchell Robinson, and Khris Middleton added two more on the play when Elfrid Payton was issued two quick technical fouls and ejected from the game.

“It feels good,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s the first time it ever happened in the NBA. It was in Greece seven years ago. That made my day. But I definitely don’t have that in my game yet. Let’s just stay humble here.”

Middleton added 17 points and Ersan Ilyasova had 14 points and seven rebounds for Milwaukee, which led by as many as 35.

Julius Randle had 25 points and 15 rebounds to pace the Knicks (11-30), and rookie RJ Barrett added 22 points. Bobby Portis had 20 off the bench. Barrett was impressed by Antetokounmpo.

“He’s ridiculous,” Barrett said. “He’s strong. He’s fast. He’s a tough cover, for sure. He’s the Greek Freak. The things he can do are incredible. As a rookie, I’m just trying to figure out a way to beat him.”

It was only the third time since 1985-86 that an NBA player scored 37 points or more in less than 22 minutes — Paul George did it earlier this season for the Los Angeles Clippers and Quintin Dailey did it in 1986 for the Chicago Bulls.

Antetokounmpo scored on a nifty drive and followed with a three-pointer as part of a 10-0 run that gave the Bucks a 39-23 advantage early in the second quarter.

Milwaukee outscored New York 36-17 in the period to grab a 65-40 halftime lead. Antetokounmpo finished the half with 20 points and eight rebounds.