MILWAUKEE – As point guard Brandon Knight goes, so go the Milwaukee Bucks this season.
Knight, acquired in a summer trade that sent point guard Brandon Jennings to Detroit, continues to establish himself as a building-block player for the rebuilding Bucks, often serving as an offensive and tempo-setting weapon.
He showed that again Monday when he scored nine of his game-high 24 points in a 90-second stretch to open the fourth quarter as Milwaukee erased what had been an 18-point deficit and held on for a 105-98 victory over the Orlando Magic at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
“He’s definitely [our motor], particularly when he’s aggressive and attacking,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said. “Not necessarily scoring, but when he’s attacking because that forces the defense to collapse.
“His energy is really high so when you get a guy like that, you kind of have to feed off it.”
Knight got off to a somewhat shaky start, missing seven of 11 shots in the first half as the Bucks fell behind by 18 points before closing to within six at the break.
The Bucks missed their first seven shots of the third quarter before going on a 15-4 run that made it a 63-60 game after Knight’s layup with 3:56 left in the quarter. After three quarters, Orlando led 71-68.
Knight sank two free throws, then added a layup with 11:21 remaining to give the Bucks their first lead since the first quarter.
“It started with his penetration and ability to get to the rim,” Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Give him credit for putting his head down and getting to the rim.”
Guard Ramon Sessions forced Magic guard E’Twaun Moore into a turnover and found Knight for an easy dunk to give Milwaukee a three-point lead.
Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo grabbed a defensive rebound, then found forward Khris Middleton, who kicked it out to Knight for a 3-pointer from the right wing. The basket put the Bucks ahead 77-71 with 10:30to play.
“I just wanted to come out and be aggressive,” said Knight, who has scored in double figures in a career-high 18 consecutive games. “I know I missed a lot of easy ones early but my teammates put me in a great position to attack the basket.”
Along with Knight, Middleton had a big fourth quarter, hitting three 3-pointers and making four from the free throw line in the final 30 seconds to finish with 21 points — 13 of them coming in the fourth quarter.
“Shooters got to keep shooting no matter what,” said Middleton, who was 2-of-9 from the field through three quarters. “That’s what coaches kept telling me, my teammates kept telling me. Eventually the shot will fall if you are confident enough to keep shooting.”
Orlando (19-46) shot 49 percent and made 7-of-16 3-pointers through the first three quarters but went 10-for-24 from the field and missed 5-of-7 long-distance attempts in the fourth.
Forward Maurice Harkless led the Magic with 14 points, and point guard Jameer Nelson added 13 points and seven assists. Center Nikola Vucevic and guards Victor Oladipo and Arron Afflalo each scored 12 for the Magic.
Forward Tobias Harris got Orlando off to a good start, hitting 5-of-7 from the field for 11 points in the first half. Afflalo made 4-of-7 and had 10 first-half points. The Magic held Milwaukee to 40 percent shooting and went into halftime up 51-45.
“The best thing is that for a quarter and a half, we were pretty good,” Vaughn said. “The challenge is there for each individual to kind of take a little snapshot of the game and see what we did well for that quarter and a half.
“We have to continue to play that way and hopefully continue to look at those good things moving forward.”
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Bucks, who also earned a split in the season series with Orlando, which has now dropped three in a row and is an NBA-worst 4-30 on the road this season.
NOTES: Rookie G Victor Oladipo returned to the Orlando lineup after missing two games with an injured left ankle. … The Bucks made 21 free throws and are averaging 20.5 makes over their last 11 games. … F Tobias Harris had 11 points and eight rebounds against the Bucks, who traded him to Orlando last February. In five career games against Milwaukee, Harris is averaging 17.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
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