As Giannis Antetokounmpo backpedaled down the floor of Madison Square Garden, gazelle-like strides propelling him in his moment of glory, the Bucks chased him, waiting to envelop their hero.
It was a felicitous ending to a tortuous night for Milwaukee. They had started the fourth quarter down by 14, but here they were, celebrating a 105-104 win over the Knicks. Floating a jumper over the arms of Lance Thomas while fading away from the free-throw line, Antetokounmpo had nailed a buzzer-beater that extended the Knicks’ losing streak to six games.
Another wretched end for the Knicks, another bitter defeat, all seeping in as Carmelo Anthony stood on that same court, stone-faced and sullen. His hands at his hips, he shook his head again and again, rubbing his right temple. What else could he do? The Knicks had played well for most of the night, had built up a double-digit lead and had even played competent defense. And still they had lost.
“I think we gave this one away,” Anthony said. “It’s a tough one to swallow.”
The Knicks appeared to be headed toward a relatively comfortable streak-busting win. They held a 16-point advantage in the third period and took an 87-73 lead into the fourth.
Then it all unraveled. In 3 minutes 15 seconds, the Bucks went on a 14-2 run and chipped that deficit down to 2.
With 8.6 seconds remaining, after an inbounds pass by Anthony had slipped through Derrick Rose’s hands, the Bucks had one last shot. In the hands of Antetokounmpo, who finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds, it was barely guardable. He received the ball at the baseline and tried to back down Thomas, who refused to give way. Then…