MILWAUKEE – The final shot from Tim Hardaway Jr. can easily be excused as a desperation heave at the buzzer that really never had much of a chance anyway.
As for Hardaway’s 12 other errant shots…well, there are no convenient alibis.
“My shots weren’t falling,” Hardaway said. “I put this one me. I put this one on my shoulders. I take all the blame for this.”
The Knicks and Hardaway imploded offensively for the second straight game and lost 92-90 when the Milwaukee Bucks All Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo converted a spinning left-handed lay-up with 1.9 seconds left.
The Greek Freak’s winning drive past Enes Kanter was the lethal combination of genius and athleticism. It was easily the best offensive sequence in a game that saw both teams score a combine 72 second half points.
Hardaway, the Knicks $72 million shooting guard, had his worst game since rejoining the team last summer. He shot 1-for-14 and missed all nine 3-point attempts one game after going 1-for-10 in Wednesday’s loss at Boston.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. Hardaway had a chance to salvage a dreadful performance and put the Knicks ahead when he stepped to the free throw line with 1:27 remaining and the game tied at 90.
But he missed the first.
And then missed the second.
“Knock those two down and it seems like everything will be behind you but that wasn’t the case,” Hardaway added. “We came up with the L.”
Incredibly, the Knicks controlled the rebound when Hardaway’s second missed free throw bounced out. Hardaway, though, drove left and missed a runner with 1:07 left.
The Knicks, who regained possession after Antetokounmpo missed a fade away, found Kanter under the basket. He had been the Knicks best offensive option, finishing with 17 points and 18 rebounds. But Kanter’s shot from close range was altered by Antetokounmpo.
“I got hit on the hand,” Kanter would say afterwards.
The Bucks had possession with 24 seconds left and held for one shot. First, the Greek Freak was guarded by Kristaps Porzingis and eventually found himself isolated on Kanter at the free throw line. One giant step and spin move later and Antetokounmpo was at the rim.
“He has that advantage where he can basically spin from the free throw line and get to the hoop,” Jeff Hornacek said of Giannis’ game-winning basket.
The Knicks called a time out to set up a final play but the best they could get was a quick, contested three from Hardaway. The Knicks made just 5 of 25 3-pointers while the Bucks made 7 of 24.
Milwaukee, coming off Thursday’s loss at Minnesota, improved to 28-23 while the Knicks fell to 23-30. The Bucks celebrated the return of Jabari Parker, who had missed a year with a second major knee injury. Parker scored 12 points in 15 minutes.
Their point guard, Eric Bledsoe, was limited to just 21 minutes before fouling out. Neither team found a rhythm; Porzingis made 6 of 15 shots and was visibly frustrated during one sequence in the second half when Hardaway didn’t get him the ball.
The difference maker was Antetokounmpo, who despite a sore ankle scored 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
The Greek Freak found a way.
The Knicks and Hardaway couldn’t find the rim.