NEW YORK -- Nate Wolters never imagined his introduction to the league would be like this.
Less than 2 minutes into opening night at Madison Square Garden, the Milwaukee Bucks' second-round draft pick was summoned onto the court.
Veteran point guard Luke Ridnour was a pregame scratch due to because of back spasms and starter Brandon Knight did the splits and suffered a strained right hamstring on one of the first plays of the game.
Welcome to the show, Nate.
After a nervous start under the bright lights of the Garden, Wolters responded in the second half and helped the Bucks rally from a 25-point deficit before they faltered at the finish of a 90-83 loss to the New York Knicks.
Big plays by Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler saved the Knicks, who trailed, 81-80, before finishing the game on a 10-2 run.
"Both point guards went down," Wolters said. "It was just not a good situation. I had to step in and try to play.
"I wish I had some plays back. I just kind of took a deep breath (in the second half) and tried to play basketball. I've been playing it my whole life.
"I have a lot to improve on. But it definitely was good to get my feet wet, especially on this kind of stage. It was pretty cool for me."
Wolters wound up playing 30 minutes and contributed nine points and four assists, and Gary Neal also took a turn at point guard and paced the Bucks (0-1) with 16 points and five assists.
"Hopefully, Brandon will be able to get back sooner rather than later," Neal said. "That's why you've always got to be ready.
"Nate came in and did a great job. For a rookie to come in and play in his first game in the Garden, he did good."
Anthony led the Knicks (1-0) with 19 points and 10 rebounds and scored two baskets in New York's closing surge.
Chandler also had two dunks in the final 3 minutes and swooped in for a block on a drive by Wolters.
"We had to buckle down and get back to how we started the game," Anthony said.
The Bucks also were sparked by the play of veteran center Zaza Pachulia, who finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds in 34 minutes off the bench. He was needed with starter Larry Sanders in foul trouble.
"I know he was tired," Bucks coach Larry Drew said of Pachulia. "I could see him out there chugging a little bit.
"I'm proud of the guys that they came out the second half and just competed. We've shown how we're capable of playing.
"Sometimes we're going to have to play ugly. We can't be cute with how we play. We have to come out and make sure we're all on the same page, and play with energy and effort. That's what we did the second half."
A three-pointer by Caron Butler tied the score at 80-80 with 4:40 left and John Henson made 1 of 2 free throws to give the Bucks their only lead of the night at the 3:13 mark.
But the Knicks took over from there.
"In the second half we did a good job," Pachulia said. "We had some time to think about it. Nate was our point guard.
"I'm got to give him credit. Playing in this arena, first game of his career. Not easy.
"We still made some mistakes. In the future we have to come out strong and not play a catch-up game. You're not always going to come back and put yourself in a position to win the game."
The Bucks bench scored 54 points and the starters had just 29, with 14 coming from Butler and 13 from O.J. Mayo.
Sanders was scoreless and piled up five fouls in just 12 minutes, and starting small forward Khris Middleton had two points in 19 minutes.
"Our team is built that everybody has to contribute a little bit," Drew said. "We don't have a Carmelo-type guy. That's not who we are.
"We have a bunch of good players now. We've got some guys that can make some things happen. But we can't play one-on-one. We have to move the basketball."
Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova was able to play 20 minutes despite aggravating his right ankle sprain early in the game and he finished with 10 points.
"The first possession I kind of twisted the ankle again," Ilyasova said. "I tried to keep going.
"Then I twisted it a couple times again. I didn't feel it was stable. I didn't plan to play that much but we got in foul trouble and I tried to push myself."
It was Ilyasova's first game action since he sprained his ankle in the first preseason game on Oct. 8.
(c)2013 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at www.jsonline.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services