MILWAUKEE — For as bad as the Milwaukee Bucks have been this season — and at an NBA-worst 8-37 entering play Monday, they have been pretty bad — they have found themselves in the hunt down the stretch several times this season, only to fall apart in the waning minutes.
So Monday, with a 10-point lead against the New York Knicks evaporating quickly, you could not have faulted the Bucks for feeling a little deja vu.
But somehow, things were different this time. Milwaukee held on for dear life before point guard Brandon Knight sank a 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left to end a six-game losing streak with a 101-98 victory over the Knicks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
“They made a lot of big shots down the stretch and our habits in the past have been to hang our head and think, ‘Here we go again,’ but we did a great job tonight fighting through it and seeing it through to the end,” said Knight, who scored 25 points to lead Milwaukee to just its second victory of 2014 and first over the Knicks since March 2012.
New York had won seven in a row against Milwaukee, including two games this season. The Bucks felt they should have won both previous games against the Knicks after rallying from a 25-point deficit in October and forcing two overtimes before losing in December.
“Our first two meetings with the Knicks, we felt like we gave away the wins, so tonight, we just wanted to finish the game strong,” Knight said.
Forward Carmelo Anthony averaged 24 games in those first two meetings and was racking up big numbers again Monday before taking over for the Knicks in the fourth quarter.
Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo put the Bucks up 81-71 on a drunk with 9:24 to play, but on their ensuing possession, the Bucks committed a shot-clock violation that gave the ball back to New York.
Anthony, who began the quarter on the bench, came back in and hit a 16-footer to make it an eight-point game. He would score seven more points over the next 1:14 to bring the Knicks within a point on a layup with 5:53 to play.
After Knicks guard J.R. Smith finally tied the game at 87-87 on two free throws with 3:44 left, Anthony took over again, scoring seven points down the stretch — including a game-tying 3-pointer with 19.4 seconds remaining.
“We put ourselves in a situation to try and win the game,” Knicks center Tyson Chandler said. “I felt like if we were going to go into overtime, we would have gotten the win.
“You have to give them credit, they hit a big shot coming down the stretch.”
Milwaukee was out of timeouts at that point, leaving coach Larry Drew nervous as Knight brought the ball up for a final shot.
“That’s a situation you don’t like to be in,” Drew said. “If he missed the shot, I wanted to go to overtime. The one thing you didn’t want was to shoot it too soon and allow New York to get the ball back.”
Knight had found himself in similar situations this season and was just trying to avoid previous mistakes.
“They had been switching pick-and-rolls all night and the shot clock was winding down so I just didn’t want to get into a situation where they could trap me or just switch,” Knight said. “I walked it down, got into a rhythm and was able to knock down the shot.”
Knight went 10-for-23 from the field and knocked down 4-of-8 3-point attempts for the Bucks, who were 11-for-18 beyond the arc Monday. Forward Khris Middleton had a career-high five of those, in six attempts.
“He really shot with some confidence,” Drew said. “You could see it early because he wasn’t hesitating.”
Smith finished with 30 points for the Knicks, who shot 43.6 percent. New York lost a second straight game despite hitting 15 of 34 3-point attempts (44.1 percent).
“We got what we wanted [offensively],” Smith said. “It’s just our defense. They got two big threes, one at the top of the key and Knight comes out and hits another. We have to do a better job contesting and taking away those big 3-pointers.”
NOTES: Bucks F Caron Butler left the game in the second half with a sprained right ankle. … New York F Iman Shumpert worked out Monday and was in the starting lineup after missing two games with a shoulder injury suffered a week ago at Boston, where he collided with Jared Sullinger. He scored five points. … Bucks G O.J. Mayo was with the team but was inactive for the fifth straight game while recovering from a flu bug.
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