NEW YORK — In one locker room, the New York Knicks spoke about the fight they displayed over 53 minutes against the NBA’s highest scoring team.
Down the hallway, the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo was fighting mad.
“One thing about our team is that we’re always going to fight,” Emmanuel Mudiay said after he scored 28 points to lead the Knicks to a 136-134 overtime win over Milwaukee on Saturday.
“We don’t play the scoreboard. That’s the one thing coach (David Fizdale) always preaches.”
Rookie forward Kevin Knox scored a career-high 26 points as New York snapped a two-game losing streak. Damyean Dotson and Tim Hardaway Jr. added 21 points each. Noah Vonleh contributed 15 points.
“It was good to see the ball go in the net,” said Knox, who had been the subject of criticism for his play. “It felt good. Just (have) to keep working (and) never get too high, never get too low.”
While the Knicks were reveling in one of their most satisfying wins of the season, Antetokounmpo was vowing vengeance for an act he preserved as disrespect.
Antetokounmpo was angry at Knicks forward Mario Hezonja, who early in the first quarter dunked on the Milwaukee star, then stared and stepped over him — much to the delight of the Madison Square Garden crowd.
“I’m going to punch him in the (groin) next time,” said Antetokounmpo, who had 33 points and 19 rebounds.
The teams next meet Christmas day in New York.
Hezonja, who was unaware of Antetokounmpo’s words, did note the crowd reaction to his only bucket of the game.
“Honestly, if you’re afraid, this is not for you,” Hezonja said. “I don’t want to be disrespectful but if you feel fear, this is not the place for you. New York is not a place for you and this team is not a place for you.”
Eric Bledsoe added 27 points for Milwaukee, which has lost three of its last five. Malcolm Brogdon finished with 22 points, Brook Lopez had 13, and Khris Middleton and Tony Snell each chipped in with 10.
“We got up a couple different times but didn’t have the focus or determination to take it to the next level,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
New York took its first lead since Hardaway’s 3-pointer midway through the first quarter on Enes Kanter’s jumper from the wing 3:13 into the third period, giving the Knicks a 71-70 advantage.
But that lead didn’t last long as Milwaukee went on a 17-0 run before Knox hit a 3-pointer. The Bucks led by as many as 16 points before the Knicks rallied, scoring the last seven points of the quarter and cutting the deficit to four at 97-93.
Mitchell Robinson opened the fourth quarter with a layup as the Knicks closed within two, but Antetokounmpo converted a three-point play, Sterling Brown added a four-point play and Brogdon hit a 3-pointer as Milwaukee pushed the lead to eight, 107-99. Moments later, Brown scored on a layup and extended the lead to 113-99.
“We’ve been competing a lot throughout this whole year. We lost a lot of games that have been down to one, two, three (points), so we’re going to compete to the end of the game,” Knox said. “We just kept fighting, competing and we just made sure that we kept chopping at the lead.”
Indeed. The Knicks outscored Milwaukee 25-11 in the final 6:39 to force overtime. Mudiay hit a 3-pointer that tied the game at 124-all before the Knicks forced Antetokounmpo into a shot-clock violation, setting up the extra session.
“We’re just trying to get the best shot available,” Mudiay said. “That’s a part of growing up.”
Antetokounmpo hit a free throw that started the scoring in overtime, and New York responded with a 3-pointer by Mudiay that gave the Knicks a 127-125 lead. Bledsoe tied the game with a layup, but Mudiay answered again with another 3. Bledsoe hit a 3-pointer that tied the game at 130-all, then Antetokounmpo scored Milwaukee’s next four points, sandwiched around a Hardaway jumper as the Bucks to a 134-132 lead.
Following a timeout, Dotson knocked down a 3-pointer that gave the Knicks a 135-134 edge. Antetokounmpo missed a runner in the lane, and a Mudiay hit a free throw that pushed New York’s advantage to 136-134.
“He kind of took it on himself and really willed it,” Fizdale said of Mudiay. “He shared the game, but he really willed that for us.”
On the next possession, Robinson blocked Bledsoe’s driving layup, forcing a jump ball. Antetokounmpo won the tip, and Lopez was fouled. He missed both free throws, and Antetokounmpo’s last attempt under the basket was blocked by Kanter.
“I was just trying to get inside ... and shoot over the guy guarding me,” Antetokounmpo said. “The guy was coming from the baseline, so I tried to go middle and raise up.”
Antetokounmpo also recorded a team-high seven assists. He has led Milwaukee in assists nine times this season. Antetokounmpo was three assists away from recording his third triple-double of the season, and the 12th of his career.