MILWAUKEE — Lifeless and stagnant to start for the second consecutive game, the Milwaukee Bucks found themselves buried in yet another big first-half hole.
Be it because of the quality of opponent or finding some energy quicker, Monday’s comeback was completed. Brandon Knight scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to put the Bucks in front for good in a 105-98 victory over Orlando at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Milwaukee had an 18-point deficit down to just three when Knight took over.
"I just wanted to come out and be aggressive, be strong and attack the basket," Knight said. "I know I missed a lot of easy ones early. My teammates put me in a great position to attack the basket by setting good screens.
"We were able to get out and get a lot of easy baskets. That got us a good rhythm and we were able to steamroll from there."
Knight started the fourth quarter by getting to the rim twice, getting fouled and hitting two free throws followed by a layup to put the Bucks up 72-71. Then came the sequence of plays that really got things going.
Giannis Antetokounmpo rebounded a missed shot and fired a one-handed baseball pass to a leaping Ramon Sessions at the opposite free-throw line. With his back to the basket, Sessions shoveled a pass to Knight who flushed it down for a big dunk.
"That was a good pass from Giannis," Sessions said. "For a minute I thought it was a little too high up. Guys were trailing and I was right there and dumped it off to him. That’s one of those things that got us going.
"I had to pull (the catch) out of the bag. It’s been a while but I pulled it out tonight."
Knight followed with his only 3-pointer of the night to make it 77-71, and Milwaukee didn’t look back, leading by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter.
"I think Brandon got us going, just pushing the ball and being in attack mode," Bucks forward Khris Middleton, who hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, said.
Orlando came out the aggressor Monday night, leading 24-13 after one quarter and extending it out to 31-13 early in the second quarter. The Bucks were just 6-of-23 in the first period, including missing all seven of their 3-point attempts.
Former Bucks forward Tobias Harris scored the final six points of the first quarter and five of Orlando’s first seven in the second quarter.
"We had a bad stretch toward the end of the first and into the second quarter, and I take responsibility for that because we didn’t have good matchups," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "It was hard for Jeff (Adrien) to guard Harris. They’re about the same size but Tobias is more of a perimeter guy who really gets out in transition."
All 11 of Harris’ points came in a one minute, 53 second stretch at the end of the first quarter and start of the second quarter. He didn’t score after the Bucks put a quicker player on him defensively.
"It’s real frustrating," Harris said. "Up 18 points, playing basketball the right way and then to differ 100 percent from that, overall it is disappointing. We stopped playing team ball, bottom line."
Drew played a smaller lineup for almost the entire fourth quarter, putting Middleton at the four spot with John Henson at center, Antetokounmpo at the three and Sessions and Knight in the backcourt.
Sessions continued to play the role of closer with yet another strong fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 16 points in the final 12 minutes.
"We were able to move a lot better," Knight said. "We were a lot more fluent offensively and defensively. We just really brought energy. That’s something that we lacked early in the game. The group of guys that were out there just brought a lot of energy and intensity. Even when we made mistakes, we continued to play hard."
The Bucks allowed 75 points and trailed by as many as 28 in Saturday night’s 114-107 loss to Washington. A playoff team like the Wizards didn’t allow Milwaukee to complete the comeback like the struggling Magic did.
A loss will usually come of the way the Bucks started Monday’s game, especially with seven of their next eight games on the road. "We got it going in the second half, but we can’t put ourselves in that position again," Middleton said. "We have to come out from the beginning and play hard like we did in the second half of these two games.
"We have to come out each game like we played that fourth quarter."