In a thrilling inaugural game of the In-Season Tournament, Damian Lillard and Brook Lopez showcased their talents for the Milwaukee Bucks, ultimately sealing a 110-105 victory over the New York Knicks. The game was marked by a stunning performance from both teams, but it was Lillard’s clutch shots and Lopez’s defensive prowess that made the difference.
Lillard, who recently joined the Milwaukee Bucks, made a significant impact, scoring 30 points and hitting a crucial go-ahead 3-pointer with just over a minute left in the game. His performance was complemented by Giannis Antetokounmpo, the two-time NBA MVP, who contributed 22 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Lillard emphasized the process of learning to play alongside his new teammate, saying, “We’re trying to learn each other. We’re trying to figure out ways to play off of each other and figure out what works for each other.”
However, the Milwaukee Bucks had to withstand a remarkable 45-point performance from the New York Knicks’ guard, Jalen Brunson, who came within three points of his career high. Brunson displayed his ability to draw fouls and position himself effectively against defenders, making it a challenging night for the Bucks. Damian Lillard commended Brunson’s performance, noting, “He can make 3s, but he doesn’t settle for 3s. He draws fouls. He knows how to position himself in front of the defender. He puts the defender in tough positions, to where you almost, you have to foul.”
The turning point in the game came in the final minutes when Jalen Brunson hit a 3-pointer, giving the Knicks a 103-101 lead with just over a minute remaining. However, Damian Lillard responded with a clutch 3-pointer, putting the Bucks back in the lead at 104-103. Following this, Khris Middleton found Lillard cutting to the basket, and a driving layup and free throw initiated a 3-point play, extending the Bucks’ lead to 107-103.
Brook Lopez, who had been relatively quiet in the opening games, delivered a spectacular defensive performance with eight blocks. His presence around the rim was instrumental in protecting the 3-point line, as the Bucks managed to secure the win. Coach Adrian Griffin made a strategic adjustment, allowing Lopez to play a more prominent role in rim protection, which proved to be a game-changer. Griffin mentioned that he listened to the input from a couple of players, stating, “I was smart enough to listen to them, and it paid off tonight.”
Lopez, appreciative of the coaching staff’s flexibility, commented, “To have a head coach who’s willing to listen in that regard and talk those things out, that’s great.”
Although the Milwaukee Bucks enjoyed a 14-point lead in the third quarter, the Knicks fought back, making it a close game down the stretch. The Bucks struggled to score for nearly seven minutes in the final period, but Lillard and Lopez’s heroics ensured the win for Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee Bucks and the New York Knicks are part of East Group B in the In-Season Tournament, along with Charlotte, Miami, and Washington. The group stage will see all teams face each other as part of their regular-season schedules, with the top teams advancing to the quarterfinals scheduled for December 4-5.
As the final buzzer sounded, the Milwaukee Bucks celebrated their hard-fought victory, while the Knicks, missing RJ Barrett due to injury, left the court with a determination to come back stronger in the upcoming games.
In their next In-Season Tournament games on November 17, the Milwaukee Bucks will visit the Charlotte Hornets, and the New York Knicks will take on the Washington Wizards. Additionally, the Knicks will host the Los Angeles Clippers in a regular game, while the Bucks will face the Brooklyn Nets on Monday.