Knicks' win over Bucks gives rest of Eastern Conference major reason to be alarmed

These Knicks don't quit.
New York Knicks, Jalen Brunson
New York Knicks, Jalen Brunson / Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the New York Knicks would officially be without Julius Randle for the rest of the season. New York's title odds dropped, but that doesn't mean fans should give up on the Knicks.

Since the news broke, the team has won two of three games, including a win over Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in Milwaukee. Jalen Brunson outplayed Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, as the star guard finished with 43 points (16-of-32), eight assists, and six rebounds in 39 minutes. It was Brunson's ninth 40+ point game of the season.

With less than a week left in the regular season, No. 4 New York is one game back from No. 2 Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference standings. The Magic are No. 3 with the same record as the Knicks but have the tiebreaker over New York. Still, that's not a bad place for the Knicks to be in, especially considering Randle's been out since late January.

There's no plus side to Randle's injury, but at least the team has had plenty of time to adjust to life without him on the court. New York was unstoppable in January with Randle and OG Anunoby, but the Knicks are still finding ways to win without half of that duo.

Knicks beat Bucks in statement win behind Jalen Brunson's 43 points

Milwaukee is in trouble. Antetokounmpo signed a three-year, $186 million max season before the regular season began. The Bucks traded Jrue Holiday away for Lillard in a win-now move. The problem is that the issues following Milwaukee around this season haven't faded.

The Heat bounced the Bucks in the first round of last year's playoffs, and Milwaukee could easily be another first-round exit. One team that the Bucks (and the other East playoff-bound teams) should want to avoid is the Knicks. It doesn't matter that Randle's sidelined. The next man-up mentality has kept New York in contention.

Boston has already locked in the top spot in the East with a 62-16 record. The chatter has been about who the Celtics will face in the Eastern Conference Finals. Before Randle got hurt, the belief was that out of every team in the conference, the Knicks had the best chance to take them down.

In the postseason, anything can happen. Don't assume that Boston will have a cakewalk to the ECF. Don't assume New York won't push past the second round even though Randle's out. The Knicks have their flaws, but they're the kind of team that comes out swinging and doesn't stop. Defensive intensity ramps up in the playoffs, and Tom Thibodeau will have New York ready.

Sunday's win over the Bucks proved why the Knicks are still a threat even without one of their stars. Underestimate them at your own risk!

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