The inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament continued on Tuesday with a pair of semifinals matchups.
These were the biggest moments of the night:
The Punching Bag was nearly perfect. It didn’t matter.
Ask a New York Knicks‘ fan for the No. 1 shortcoming of their favorite team, and they’re more than likely to say their power forward, Julius Randle — a.k.a., The Punching Bag — shoots too much and scores too little. He took the floor for Tuesday’s quarterfinal showdown against the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament averaging the second-most field-goal attempts for the Knicks while shooting their 11th-best field-goal percentage.
None of that was apparent Tuesday night. Randle took a total of 31 shots — 12 from the free-throw line, two from beyond the arc — and made 25 of them for a game-high 41 points. He did not miss a shot at all in the first half, going 9 for 9 from the field and 6 for 6 at the free-throw line.
All of that was only enough to keep the Knicks within three at halftime and not nearly enough to offset one of their worst defensive performances in decades as the Bucks throttled them, 146-122. The 146 points were the most a Knicks’ team has allowed since 1979. The 37, 38 and 37 points they gave up in the first, second and third quarters represented the first time since 1962 that they allowed an opponent to score 30-plus points in each of the first three quarters. That game occurred in Hershey, PA, against the Philadelphia Warriors, whose center, Wilt Chamberlain, scored 100 of their 169 points.
Yeah, not since that game has the Knicks’ defense been that porous.
And while Randle shot well for the Knicks, everybody shot well for the Bucks, regardless of distance. They made 23 of 38 three-pointers, their long-range percentage (60.5) actually a touch better than their overall percentage (59.8). Credit that to their ball movement and collective unselfishness, which produced 32 assists and six players scoring in double figures, with Brook Lopez and AJ Green nearly making it eight with 9 points each.
There’s a good chance that the Bucks will need to be nearly as prolific in their semifinal matchup against the league’s No. 1 offense, the Indiana Pacers. That game is set for Thursday in Las Vegas at 2 p.m.
The league provided cash prizes as an added tournament incentive. Each quarterfinalist player earned $50,000. Every semifinalist makes $100,000. Losers in the final receive $200,000, while the winners get $500,000.
The money apparently isn’t a motivating factor for Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was surprised to hear he’d already earned the 100K. “We get money now?” Antetokounmpo asked. “The rich get richer.”
Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has written two books, “Rebound,” on NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with young onset Parkinson’s, and “Yao: A Life In Two Worlds.” He also has a daily podcast, “On The Ball with Ric Bucher.” Follow him on Twitter @RicBucher.
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