When these two teams met on Opening Night, no one could have guessed that they would reunite under these circumstances. I don’t think anyone really expected the Bucks to be much good, but watching the Knicks fall apart since then has been stunning. Now they limp into the BMOBC without Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, Kenyon Martin, and likely Amar’e Stoudemire. In addition, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert have been nursing knee injuries and Tyson Chandler will be playing in his first game back from a fractured fibula suffered in early November.
What to Watch For: Bucks
Adrian Wojnarowski, he of the #WojBomb breaking trade news, has #WojBommbed us in a different way Wednesday, announcing that Giannis Antetokounmpo potentially will move into the Bucks starting lineup. This isn’t too shocking, as an article from Charles F. Gardner at the Journal-Sentinel strongly hinted this move was nearing over the weekend. At any rate:
John Henson has been just about the only Buck making an impact in recent games and if Chandler is still limited he’ll have the chance to ply his trade against Andrea Bargnani, who is an absolutely wretched defender. I mean, he’s really, really bad on defense. Which is exactly the kind of remedy the Bucks need. But even a barrage of beautiful hook shots won’t provide enough firepower to push this team past the Knicks.
Someone else on the team needs to develop a consistent offensive presence. This would be a great time for O.J. Mayo to step up and start hitting shots like he did at the beginning of the season. Or for Brandon Knight to start developing into the drive-and-kick point guard we all want him to be. Or, failing those two things, some extended playing time for Miroslav Raduljica and a continuation of consistent minutes for Giannis. The Knicks are beat up and playing poorly, which represents an opportunity for the Bucks to regain some traction and start playing like an NBA team again.
What to Watch For: Knicks
Tyson Chandler is returning this evening, which will probably be a problem for an offensively inept Bucks team.
J.R. Smith has been doing some very J.R. Smith-esque things since returning from knee surgery and an early-season suspension. He doesn’t pass, doesn’t defend much…. no, J.R. prefers shooting. And he’ll take as many shots as possible, it seems. Even in a year when he’s shooting 33%, he’s finding ways to take over 11 shots per game, including almost six per game from the 3-point line. That’s probably a good thing as he’s actually better from 3 (34%!) than his overall shooting percentage.
Nevertheless, Smith has the ability to get hot seemingly at the drop of a hat and swing the course of a game. It may seem strange, but both the best and most terrifying scenarios for the Bucks involve Smith taking a large number of shots. If he eats up a large number of Knick possessions and shoots poorly, Milwaukee has a chance. If he makes those shots… yikes.
Oh, yeah. Carmelo Anthony. That guy can shoot the ball too. The best outcome for the Bucks involves forcing Smith and Anthony to hoist contested jumpers and hope that they don’t start making them.
Time – 7:00 PM Central
TV – FS-Wisconsin
Radio – 620 WTMJ
Bucks: Zaza Pachulia (right foot fracture; out), Caron Butler (sore left knee; out), Gary Neal (left foot plantar fasciitis; out), Larry Sanders (thumb; out), Carlos Delfino (foot surgery; out)
Knicks: Pablo Prigioni (fractured toe; out), Amar’e Staudamire (knees, differing opinions), Raymond Felton (hamstring; out)
PG Brandon Knight
SG O.J. Mayo
SF Giannis Antetokounmpo
PF Ersan Ilyasova
C John Henson
PG Beno Udrih
SG J.R. Smith
SF Iman Shumpert
PF Carmelo Anthony
C Tyson Chandler
Jeremy’s For Recreational Purposes Only Prediction (aka Betsketball)
Line: Knicks -3
Short and sweet today: Knicks -3 and the under.
Record: 16-14 (6-9 ATS and 10-5 over/under)
Choose the Form of the Self-Destructor: Mike Woodson
Dude can’t even manage his end-of-game timeout strategy any more.
I’m incredulous that Mike Woodson still has a job. So are a lot of Knicks fans. We’ll see how long he retains it.