Knicks lose at Madison Square Garden again despite late comeback attempt

© New York Daily News

NEW YORK — The Knicks again lost at home.

A spirited comeback by the Knicks’ reserves couldn’t overcome an absolute dud by the starters in Wednesday’s 112-100 loss to the Bucks, with the defending champs using a 3-point barrage and a 23-11 run in the final five minutes to bury the Knicks.

Led by Derrick Rose, the Knicks overcame a 24-point deficit to knot the game at 89. But then the Bucks rained treys as part of a spectacular performance from beyond the arc, finishing with 26 treys on 50 attempts for 52%.

The Knicks (7-5) are now just 2-4 at home, and this matchup provided circumstances to contrast against their better play on the road.

Only five days earlier, the Knicks toppled the same opponent in Milwaukee. But they’ve dropped three straight at MSG.

The play of the Knicks’ starters — particularly on defense — remains an issue. They were dominated by the Bucks’ lineup, with the evidence in the final plus-minus stats: Julius Randle (-26), RJ Barrett (-28), Kemba Walker (-22) and Evan Fournier (-22).

The game appeared over with about six minutes left in the third quarter, when Giannis Antetokoumnpo stole Immanuel Quickley’s pass and darted for a reverse dunk and a 24-point lead.

But then the reserves caught fire. Rose finished with 22 points in 30 minutes. Obi Toppin, the crowd favorite, added 14 points in 22 minutes. Quickley dropped 18 and provided the highlight of the night, a crossover trey that tied the score with five minutes left.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, as a result, benched all his starters in the fourth quarter. Randle played only 27 minutes and shot 6 for 15 in 27 minutes. Every other starter scored in single digits. Newcomers Walker and Fournier combined for four points on 2-of-12 shooting.

Milwaukee was still shorthanded without Khris Middleton (COVID-19 protocols) and Brook Lopez (lingering back problem). The Bucks were also playing in the second night of a back-to-back after their Tuesday win in Philadelphia.

But the Bucks are still the former champs, and they still had one of the game’s greatest in Antetokounmpo, who didn’t need to dominate (15 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists in 38 minutes) because Pat Connaughton (23 points) and Grayson Allen (15 points) combined for 12 3-pointers.