Bucks hold off Knicks to climb above .500 mark
In a hallway at the Bradley Center after another win for the Milwaukee Bucks, smiling team owner Marc Lasry gave coach Jason Kidd a hug.
The new era for the rebuilding franchise is off to a pretty good start.
Ersan Ilyasova had 20 points, and Milwaukee climbed above .500 for the first time in more than a year by fending off the New York Knicks for a 117-113 victory Tuesday night.
Zaza Pachulia added season highs of 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Bucks, who improved to 6-5 on the season after nearly blowing a 26-point lead. It was the first time the team had a winning record since March 20, 2013, when it was 34-33.
"As long as we're consistent, it doesn't matter how we start, but it's more how we finish," rookie forward Jabari Parker said. "That's what we need to keep trying to do."
Parker, who finished with 12 points, is one of the 19-year-old cornerstones of the future, along with 6-foot-11 forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. He had 13 points, and the balanced Bucks had seven players score in double figures.
After giving up a big lead in a season-opening loss at Charlotte, Kidd can point to this game as a valuable lesson for the future.
"I thought tonight we kind of used that as a stepping stone to finish off the game against a veteran ballclub that put themselves in position to win," Kidd said.
New York closed to 115-113 with 7.9 seconds left on a dunk off a baseline move by Carmelo Anthony.
Jerryd Bayless responded with two free throws for Milwaukee. He went 5 for 6 at the line in the final 26 seconds.
A desperation 3 at the buzzer by Tim Hardaway Jr. glanced off harmlessly off the rim. Anthony finished with 26 points, while Hardaway Jr. had 24.
The neck-and-neck final few minutes were unexpected after the Bucks led by double digits for most of the first three quarters.
After shooting 60 percent in the first half, the Bucks went cold from the field down the stretch. Bayless' jumper with 6:32 to go was Milwaukee's only field goal until Ilyasova pump-faked Anthony to hit a 16-footer with 33.1 seconds remaining for a 112-106 lead.
The Bucks outrebounded the Knicks 44-28, even with Pachulia replacing starting center Larry Sanders (bruised thigh) at the last minute.
"They wanted it at times a little bit more than we did," Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. "It wasn't until the third quarter really started to get out of hand that we started to put the right mindset into playing with a sense of urgency."
Knicks: Iman Shumpert returned to the starting lineup after missing a game with a hip contusion. He scored 21 in 36 minutes after Fisher said before the game that his shooting guard did not have a time restriction. ... Fisher said he kept G J.R. Smith in the starting lineup for another ball-handler against the Bucks, who were fourth in the league in defense in allowing 92.6 points per game.
Bucks: Kidd brushed off a couple questions about the Bucks' game on Wednesday against his former employer, the Brooklyn Nets. Kidd departed Brooklyn after one season in a messy split before being hired by the Bucks in June.
Anthony returned to the locker room for a couple minutes in the second quarter to get his left knee re-taped. Anthony said he aggravated his already sore knee after hitting the floor while scrambling for a loose ball.
"I've had some tests. I really don't know exactly what's going on with it -- I mean, I know what's going on with it," Anthony said. "But like I said, for me it's just a matter of just not kind of thinking about and playing through it."
The Bucks' reserves had another big night with 51 points. Ilyasova shot 8 of 10 in 20 minutes, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range.
"For him to make a big shot down the stretch for us shows that everybody trusts one another," Kidd said. "He stepped up for us."