New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Giannis Antetokounmpo returned to the lineup with a vengeance, pumping in 23 points with nine rebounds in the Milwaukee Bucks' 99-91 win over the New York Knicks.
Held out of Wednesday's loss to Cleveland on a decision by Bucks head coach Jason Kidd, Antetokounmpo hit on 7-of-14 shots to support a 22-point effort by Khris Middleton that also helped Milwaukee reduce its magic number to one to clinch a playoff berth.
"I thought he responded in a positive way," Kidd said of Antetokounmpo. "I thought he played a great game."
The Bucks currently hold the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Langston Galloway was one bright spot in the lowly Knicks' 11th loss in 12 games, finishing with 20 points. Lance Thomas added 16 on 6-of-6 shooting.
"That's what we're going to continue to do is just play hard and try to get wins, regardless of our record," Galloway said.
Up 52-49 at halftime, the Bucks began to pull away by putting forth a huge run in the third quarter. An 18-2 spurt was keyed by Antetokounmpo's seven points and six from Middleton, whose triple with 6:23 left in the period stretched Milwaukee's lead to 72-53.
The Knicks were able to close within single digits behind a 9-0 stretch, highlighted by Thomas' 3-pointer and capped by two free throws from the forward that cut the deficit to 92-83 with 4:07 remaining.
Michael Carter-Williams, who put up 19 points and seven assists for Milwaukee, then stuck a jumper that preceded Antetokounmpo's 3-point play that all but ended any comeback hopes for the host Knicks.
Carter-Williams scored eight first-quarter points and Milwaukee used a 9-0 run to claim a 28-19 advantage late in the frame. A 12-2 flurry in the second staked New York to a slim 33-32 edge, but the Knicks trailed by three at the half after Middleton buried a trey with 23.1 seconds to go.
Milwaukee next hosts Brooklyn on Sunday and closes the regular-season at home against Boston on Wednesday following a visit to Philadelphia. The Nets and Celtics both trail the Bucks by two games in the conference standings ... Milwaukee took all four meetings between the teams to earn its first season sweep of New York since 1990-91 ... The Knicks committed 26 turnovers that the Bucks converted into 33 points ... Lou Amundson posted a 10-point, 11-rebound double-double for New York.