The Knicks went from bad to disgusting Monday at Fiserv Forum.
The Bucks are the NBA’s hottest team and a favorite to reach the NBA Finals. The Knicks were without two stalwart defensive-minded starters in Frank Ntilikina and Marcus Morris, and were playing the second night of a back-to-back.
Still, that doesn’t excuse the Knicks for showing up with an utter lack of pride and suffering a 44-point defeat, 132-88, that won’t look good on embattled coach David Fizdale’s ledger. It was, by far, their worst loss since Fizdale took over prior to last season and won’t look good on the embattled coach’s ledger.
The talent disparity was severe, and the Bucks were able to dictate everything against a club that looked like it didn’t want to be here. Milwaukee built a 47-point lead in the fourth quarter.
“Personally, I think we didn’t come in with an idea we could beat this team from the beginning,’’ Fizdale said. “That’s what was most disappointing. They got whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. We never took a real stand.’’
Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will be a free agent in 2021 and is the leading MVP candidate, could not have respected what he saw from his opponent as he glided effortlessly for 29 points and 15 rebounds in 22 minutes.
Antetokounmpko was done for the night with 4:50 left in the third and the score 93-55, getting a chance for a long lounge.
Julius Randle sensed in the locker room before the game the team didn’t have the usual “spirit” and wasn’t sure if it was because of it being the second leg of a back-to-back.
“I felt the [lack of] morale at the beginning of the game,’’ Randle said. “A lack of energy. Our spirit has to be everything.’’
Past the quarter-pole, the Knicks are 4-17 — well on pace for another 17-65 season — and have lost seven straight. It’s the worst 21-game start in team history.
Milwaukee has won 12 straight games. The Knicks, who shot 30.8 percent, don’t even have a two-game winning streak this season.
The Bucks wore jerseys with “Cream City’’ scrawled across their chests. The Knicks should have worn “Cream Puffs’’ across theirs.
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“Whatever word you want to use — lack of tenacity, intensity, focus,’’ Fizdale said. “I don’t feel we came into the game believing we could win this game. I felt going into every other game, we felt we can come out and beat anybody. Tonight we didn’t come out with the idea we can beat this team. I guess my motivational talk didn’t take hold.’’
The fans were getting bored late in the third quarter when the scoreboard showed a group of Packers in a luxury suite. It sent the crowd into a new frenzy, screaming, “Go Pack Go!’’
In the first quarter, Antetokounmpo looked like he was at a schoolyard dominating middle-school kids when he drove left on Randle spun in the lane and dunked over him as if he wasn’t there. Randle played a lifeless game on the defensive end.
Management, according to a source, considered the last 10-game segment an improvement over the first 10 games despite the same 2-8 record. The next step was getting the Knicks to close out games in the fourth quarter.
However, Monday was a setback of the tallest order for Fizdale’s ability to motivate the team in a tough spot.
Point guard Dennis Smith Jr. also sensed a lack of ferocity.
“Other games we believed we could win,’’ Smith said. “We gave them too much and let them get too comfortable.’’
It was even a rare horrendous night for rookie RJ Barrett, who couldn’t throw the ball into nearby Lake Michigan in the worst performance of his rookie season. Barrett went 0-for-9 from the field, finishing with two points and one assist in 20 minutes.
“He looked like a rookie,’’ Fizdale said.
The Knicks shot just 4 of 24 in the first quarter and the Bucks took a 33-15 lead. Fizdale said the team was taking “terrible quality of shots.’’
With Ntilikina (back) and Morris (neck) out, the Knicks started Kevin Knox at small forward and Smith at point guard. Knox picked up two fouls in the opening minutes and was yanked.
Smith’s jump shot was off target. He finished 1 of 7 for four points and three assists.
For the first time in eight games, Allonzo Trier received non-garbage time minutes in the first half. He played 11:50 and hit 3 of 5 baskets to rack up 10 points but didn’t play in the second half.
Knox didn’t have it either — 1 of 9 from the field for five points and finishing a team-worst minus-37.
“We weren’t connected as a unit,” Randle said. “As an individual we have to look at ourselves and say what are we doing wrong.”