Posted on February 3, 2018, by Travis Pulver
The Milwaukee Bucks have their superstar of the future in Giannis Antetokounmpo. But, as any NBA fan knows, a single superstar does not make a team an NBA champion. He needs help—and Friday night, Antetokounmpo got some more with the return of power forward Jabari Parker. Parker hadn’t played since tearing his ACL last February.
But he was cleared to play earlier in the week and made his return to action in a limited capacity (15 minutes off the bench) against the New York Knicks Friday night. He scored 12 points, seven of which came in the first and helped the Bucks beat the Knicks, 92-90.
“I was just trying to stay composed, not trying to get carried away,” Parker said after the game (ESPN). “I was pretty much distracted because I heard the crowd but had to calm down. Still got to show the people why I’ve been working so hard.”
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Both teams had their moments and fought hard throughout the game. The Knicks led by one after the first. But the two teams were tied heading into halftime and then heading into the fourth period as well. Both had their shot down the stretch. But it was Antetokounmpo that came through in the clutch for the Bucks in the end.
He hit a layup to tie the game up at 90-90 with a couple minutes to go. Knicks forward Tim Hardaway Jr. could have given New York the lead but missed a pair of free throws. But the Knicks got another chance after Antetokounmpo missed a jumper.
Enes Kanter pulled down the rebound but then missed what would have been the go-ahead layup. Antetokounmpo came down with the board and then hit the go-ahead shot with 1.9 seconds remaining. Hardaway got off a desperation shot at the buzzer, but it didn’t fall.
Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek felt good about how his guys played Antetokounmpo on the final play (ESPN):
“Enes made him spin and (Porzingis) came from the weak side. I thought he was going block it,” Hornacek said. “He’s just so long he was able to get it off.”
Antetokounmpo recorded a double-double with 29 points and 11 rebounds on the night. Kristaps Porzingis had 17 points. Enes Kanter also chipped in 17 to go with 18 rebounds. Tim Hardaway Jr. struggled from the floor hitting just one of 14 shots ending the night with six points.
Parker was having a good season when he went down last year. In 51 games including 50 starts, he averaged 20.1 points/game and 6.2 rebounds. So, it is safe to say his return could make a significant impact on the playoff picture down the stretch.
With Friday night’s win, the Bucks are 28-23 and would be the No. 6 seed if the playoffs started. They are only a half-game behind the Miami Heat, one game back of the Washington Wizards, and 2.5 behind Cleveland. It is not hard to imagine a scenario where the Bucks are the No. 3 seed entering the playoffs.
Milwaukee will try to keep the momentum going when they take the court next on Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets. The Knicks will try to get back on the right side of the scoreboard Sunday when they face the Atlanta Hawks.