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Brandon Jennings vs. Chauncey Billups
In his first game as a Knick, Billups will face the team he performed very well against in his last game as a Nugget. Billups scored 20 points and hit a late game three that gave the Nuggets the lead for good in their 94-87 victory over the Bucks last Wednesday. Jennings is coming off one of his better games this season and, without question, his best game since returning from a foot injury. Jennings scored 27 points and handed out seven assists against the defenseless Timberwolves. He’s traditionally taken a liking to playing on big stages, especially Madison Square Garden, so look for Jennings to have it going early.
John Salmons vs. Landry Fields
Salmons’ tough year appeared to be on the rise after his best game as a member of the Bucks in Milwaukee’s loss to the Nuggets last Wednesday. Salmons tallied 33 points and, before struggling down the stretch, provided nearly all the offense the Bucks needed to pull off an upset. In his first game back from the All-Star break Tuesday night though, he, like many of his teammates, seemed to have lost any positive momentum he had. Salmons scored just 12 points on four of 13 shooting. Most troubling for Salmons is a three-point stroke that has disappeared once again. After hitting better than half his threes in January, Salmons has made just over a quarter of them in February. Inconsistency has been his biggest enemy this season, but traditionally he starts to get a lot more consistent around this time of year. We’ll see if that holds up again.
Carlos Delfino vs. Carmelo Anthony
Anthony may slide down to the four in his Knicks debut, depending on whether the Knicks want to start an extra guard or a center next to their big name forwards. If ‘Melo is going to get time at the three though, he could be in line for another big night. Anthony had his way with the Bucks’ Delfino last Wednesday, pounding him into submission during a 10-15 first half shooting performance. The scales swung more in the Bucks favor in the second half when Luc Mbah a Moute slid down and spent time on the scoring forward, but it was too late by then. Milwaukee may look to find a way to match up Mbah a Moute on the newest Knick earlier in this game.
Luc Mbah a Moute vs. Amar’e Stoudemire
Mbah a Moute is sure to have his hands full Wednesday night, regardless of who he is matched up with. He’ll likely spend time on both Anthony and Stoudemire. Either way, he’ll need a much better effort than the one he gave against the T-Wolves, when he grabbed just one defensive rebound and spent the majority of the game on the bench. The strength and physicality of the Wolves frontline was too much for Mbah a Moute, but the Knicks lack the same strength. They are much more finesse and play more into the hands of Mbah a Moute. Still, he won’t have an easy night.
Andrew Bogut vs. Ronny Turiaf
Stoudemire may move over to center and force Bogut to guard him. Stoudemire’s speed and jump-shot would give Bogut a few problems, as he has trouble defending quicker bigs on the perimeter. If Turiaf starts, that would play into the hands of the Bucks. Things haven’t gone so well offensively for Bogut lately — he’s scored in double figures just one time over his past five games. Milwaukee’s been getting him the ball adequately, but Bogut’s made just 15 of 40 shots over the past five games. Rough numbers for ideally the centerpiece of Milwaukee’s offense.
Corey Maggette, Jon Brockman, Keyon Dooling and Ersan Ilyasova
Toney Douglas, Bill Walker, Shawne Williams, Renaldo Balkman and Roger Mason
It’s tough to tell just who will be apart of the Knicks rotation after their trade with Denver. Roger Mason had been glued to the bench, but possibly could see minutes going forward. Renaldo Balkman and Shelden Williams came over from Denver and are among the only bigs New York has left. Corey Brewer is another new addition. The surest bets seem Toney Douglas and Shawne Williams, both capable offensive player who leave something to be desired on the other end. Maggette scored well against the Wolves and Brockman grabbed a career high 14 rebounds.
Prediction: Knicks 99 – Bucks 93
The energy in MSG by itself may be too much for the Bucks to overcome. Add that to the actual skilled playing of ‘Melo and Stoudemire and the Bucks face a tall task in knocking off the new-look Knicks in their first game together.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).