What to Watch For: Bucks (17-17)
Friday’s matchup with Indiana kicked off arguably the Bucks’ easiest five-game stretch to date. While a bogged down second half offense closed the door on a chance to jump to two games above .500, Milwaukee’s upcoming schedule should provide a few more opportunities. Beginning with Sunday’s contest, the Bucks’ next four opponents – New York, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Minnesota – are a combined 33-99, with more than half of those wins coming courtesy of the 19-16 Suns, who are still clinging to the eighth seed out West.
Before hosting Phoenix on Tuesday, the Bucks will head to Madison Square Garden on Sunday to face the Knicks for the second time this season. The Bucks held on for a 117-113 victory back on Nov. 18 behind a 14-point, 13-rebound eruption from Zaza Pachulia. The loss dropped the Knicks to 3-9, reason enough to panic at the time, but in the month-and-a-half since, things have somehow gotten even worse. Since Nov. 18, New York is just 2-21 and holds two separate 10-game losing streaks, including the one it’s currently riding after falling to a suddenly improved Pistons team on Friday.
If the Bucks hope to extend that skid to 11 games, controlling the paint on both ends will be key. Despite Larry Sanders’ best efforts, Milwaukee is a vastly improved team finishing around the rim this season. Sure, the Bucks have fallen to 10th in the league in points in the paint per game, down from as high as fourth a few weeks ago, but considering the lack of a true, go-to interior scorer, it’s an impressive number. The Knicks, who also lack an elite big man, rank dead last in points in the paint for the third straight season.
However, despite dealing former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, the Knicks are allowing the fewest points in the paint per game this season at 37.5 — kind of a crazy stat when you look at some of the frontcourt guys on the roster (what up, Travis Wear?). However, no one is mistaking the Knicks for a good defensive team. They rank third-last in defensive efficiency, ahead of only the Lakers and Timberwolves, and allow opponents to shoot the NBA’s highest percentage from beyond the arc at nearly 40 percent. And playing at the league’s second-slowest pace is certainly a contributing factor to the low interior scoring numbers.
What to Watch For: Knicks (5-30)
No one expected the Knicks to contend for a title this season, but with Carmelo Anthony on the roster, there was reason to believe they would at least challenge for a playoff spot. Suffice it to say that has not been the case. In the midst of implementing a new offensive philosophy, Anthony is banged up, and the rest of the roster is a catastrophic mashup of inexperience and aging veterans.
With several key players expected to miss Sunday’s game, including Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and former Bucks great Samuel Dalembert, it’s tough to predict where the Knicks’ offense will come from. In order to keep it close, they’ll need Milwaukee to have an off shooting night, especially from beyond the arc. That wasn’t the case in the first meeting, when Milwaukee knocked down 9-of-17 attempts. If the Bucks shoot north of 50 percent again, chances are the Knicks’ skid reaches 11 games.
Time – 6:30 p.m. CST TV – FS Wisconsin Radio – 620 WTMJ
Knicks: Carmelo Anthony (knee; doubtful); Andrea Bargnani (calf; doubtful); Samuel Dalembert (ankle; questionable); Tim Hardaway, Jr. (concussion; probable); Iman Shumpert (shoulder; out); Amar’e Stoudemire (knee; questionable)
Choose the Form of the Destructor: J.R. Smith, obviously
Melo, Hardaway, Stoudemire and Shumpert are all either out or probably out. For most people in the Knicks organization, this is not good news.
J.R. Smith is not most people.
When I said earlier that it’s tough to predict where New York’s offense will come from with so many injuries, I neglected to note that this is essentially J.R.’s dream scenario.
Here’s to hoping this record falls:
Stoudemire told Felton that JR Smith took an NBA-record 22 threes in the loss. Felton said in response, "Jesus Christ."
— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) April 6, 2014