MILWAUKEE -- — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 35 points and 10 assists, Damian Lillard added 28 points, and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the New York Knicks 146-122 on Tuesday night to reach the semifinals of the NBA's inaugural In-Season Tournament.
The Bucks posted a season high in scoring, shooting 60.5% (23 of 38) from 3-point range and 60.4% overall to set up a matchup with Indiana in Las Vegas on Thursday.
“Tonight was a huge step. We wanted to get to Vegas but when we get to Vegas we’ve got to take care of business. We've got two games to win there," coach Adrian Griffin said. “I thought tonight our team was the better team. Our bench was terrific and I thought the crowd was terrific. It had all the makings of a playoff game.”
Griffin anticipates a strong challenge from the Pacers.
“We expect their best, but when we are at our best, I love our chances,” he said.
Lillard said the Bucks are headed to Las Vegas with the intent of bringing home a championship and setting a tone for the rest of the season.
“You come out of this thing on top, I think it’s a pretty strong statement and something that everybody around the league has to respect,” he said.
Milwaukee is 5-0 in tournament play and extended its home winning streak to nine games. The Bucks (15-6) have won 10 of 12 overall.
Julius Randle scored a season-high 41 points for the Knicks, whose three-game winning streak was snapped. Jalen Brunson added 24 points and R.J. Barrett scored 23 for New York, which earned a wild-card berth in the knockout round through a point-differential tiebreaker.
“Defensively, we didn’t really do anything all game. That’s the story. That’s it,” Brunson said. “They hit a lot of shots. They got comfortable. It’s on us to make them uncomfortable.”
Antetokounmpo had an injury scare less than two minutes into the game. After tipping in a missed shot, he landed on Randle's foot and rolled his left ankle. Antetokounmpo fell to the floor in pain. He eventually limped up the court but stayed in the game and tallied 10 of the Bucks' first 13 points.
After a tightly contested first half, the Bucks pulled ahead by as many as 18 points in the third quarter. Milwaukee led by as many as 27 in the fourth and Griffin emptied his bench, giving rare playing time to Antetokounmpo's brother, Thanasis, and Robin Lopez, the twin brother of starting center Brook Lopez.
Lillard swished three step-back 3-pointers in the waning stages of the second quarter to give the Bucks at 75-72 lead at halftime. It was the highest-scoring first half this season for Milwaukee.
Lillard thought the Bucks could have scored even more.
“We missed free throws. We missed some shots in the paint. It could have easily been a 165-point game," he said. “That doesn’t mean that we can turn into a team that does that every night, but I do think that we have that type of explosiveness.”
The Knicks had gone 10-3 since losing to the Bucks in Milwaukee on Nov. 3 in the opener of tournament group play.
Knicks: At Boston on Friday.
Bucks: Will seek to avenge a 126-124 loss to the host Pacers in the teams' only meeting this season.
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA
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