Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 2-5
Inactive: Chris Douglas Roberts, Michael Redd, Darington Hobson
New York Knicks (Mike D’Antoni) 3-3
Inactive: Eddy Curry, Kelenna Azubuike
Game Time: 7:00 PM (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
The Other Guys: Knickerblogger
Brandon Jennings vs. Raymond Felton
Despite an optimistic start and an off-season full of proclamations regarding a double digit assist average, Jennings is now down to 6.4 assists per game. Though it’s not difficult to understand why his numbers have taken such a hit. The Bucks are now shooting less than 40% as a team. If his teammates aren’t converting on opportunities, that makes it impossible for Jennings’ numbers to improve. He’s recently indicated that he may look to shoot a little more though. His reasoning goes something like, “last season I shot a lot and the team won, now I’m not shooting a lot and the team is losing. Ergo, I should shoot more and the team will win again.” Hmm. In the Bucks best two months last season, February and March, Jennings averaged 11.8 and 12.8 shots per game respectively. In the Bucks worst month, December, Jennings averaged 16.3 shots per game. It was John Salmons great play in February and March that had a lot to do with the Bucks winning, not Jennings shooting a lot. Felton has pretty much been the same player he’s always been, despite transitioning to a more open offense. He’s shot free throws better and rebounded the ball a little more, otherwise, he’s been productive if unspectacular.
Advantage: Knicks (they know what they’ll get from Felton)
John Salmons vs. Landry Fields
Here’s a horrifying stat: through seven games last season, John Salmons was shooting 33%. This season? 32.4%. Perhaps the knee injury isn’t the problem at all. I had the chance to watch Fields this summer and came away very impressed with his game. He’s very poised on the court and is always moving around off the ball, looking to get into open space. He’s been a pleasant surprise for the Knicks as a second round pick. D’Antoni has been very kind with his words regarding Fields, “His consistency on all the details of the game is what makes him unique,” D’Antoni says. Fields is one of only five rookies (DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and Timofey Mosgov) to have started a game this season. Fields has responded well, shooting 55.6% from the field and 46.2% from three.
Carlos Delfino vs. Danilo Gallinari
Delfino is questionable after straining his neck against the Hornets, but reports have been positive. For a while he was one of the best shooters in the league this season, but that went down like a balloon popped in midair. After starting the season 15-31 from three, Delfino has hit just 2-14 3-pointers. It appears he’ll never be a consistent 40% shooter, which is exactly what Gallinari is. “The Rooster” as he is known, is one of the league’s finest shooters, sitting at 39% for his career. Unfortunately for Knicks fans, he doesn’t do a whole lot else and can’t score in a lot of other ways at this point in his NBA career. Mind boggling as it sounds for a shooter like Gallinari, he’s hit just 13% of his mid-range shots this season.
Drew Gooden vs. Amare Stoudamire
Gooden’s still trying to get his head above water as a Buck, but he’s drowning in suck quickly. He missed two huge free throws down the stretch against the Hornets and hasn’t really had an effective game this season, save maybe the first game of the year. Stoudamire has never been known as much of a defender, but in the same way that David West did, he could give Milwaukee some problems, even though Gooden was brought in to bang with guys like him. Sigh. Milwaukee could take advantage of the turnover festival Stoudamire has been hosting this year though. STAT is averaging 4.7 turnovers per game. The Bucks didn’t do nearly enough to capitalize on turnovers against the Hornets on Saturday, so they must improve there.
Andrew Bogut vs. Timofey Mozgov
Opposing centers have struggled against Bogut this season and it’s incredibly unlikely that Mozgov will fare any better than the rest of them have. He’s currently last among Knicks starters in PER, with a puny 4.1. Bogut’s coming off his best offensive game of the season against the Hornets and the typically stout defender Emeka Okafor, so he could be in line for a big game against the Knicks.
Luc Mbah a Moute, Corey Maggette, Keyon Dooling and Jon Brockman
Bill Walker, Toney Douglas, Wilson Chandler, Ronny Turiaf and Anthony Randolph
Douglas has been doing a little bit of a lot this season and scoring at a healthy clip to boot. He’s fit the scorer off the bench role perfectly for D’Antoni’s up-tempo crew. Randolph is coming off injury and still finding his footing and Turiaf has been the effective energy guy, garbage man, shot-blocker that he always is. Milwaukee’s bench has seen a lot more downs than ups this year and Maggette in particular has been tough to figure. He’s done well in getting to the free throw line, but he takes an outrageous number of mid-range jumpers that haven’t been falling. Milwaukee’s entire second unit offense seems to fall onto his shoulders, but it’s tough to tell if that’s because of his style of play or because the other guys have just been ineffective and deferred to him. He can be maddening to watch, but so very effective in the same regard.
Prediction: Knicks 96 – Bucks 88
Until Milwaukee can figure out this whole offense thing, it’s tough to project them to win. Traditionally, it’s safe to pencil in an offensive outburst against D’Antoni’s merry men, but this season’s Knicks have, gasp, actually been good defensively. The Knicks are 8th in the league in defensive rating, despite playing the fourth quickest pace. When the Bucks drafted Larry Sanders last June, they talked about becoming longer and more athletic. Then they resigned Salmons and picked up Gooden. The Knicks actually became more athletic. They acquired Randolph and Turiaf in the David Lee sign and trade and lucked into the talented and long Fields in the draft. Douglas is a ball hawk on the perimeter and Stoudamire can run the court and finish as well as anyone. Milwaukee’s defense is too good to allow them to get run out of the building tonight, but this contrast in styles could end up in favor of the Knicks.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan of Bucksketball on Facebook (to the right).