The Bucks look to make it two wins in three days over New York metro area foes when they host Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and Chauncey Billups at the Bradley Center on Sunday afternoon.
Hype wearing off Knicks? The Bucks were an early victim of Melo's New York honeymoon, playing the role of plucky opponent in a 114-108 loss at MSG on February 24. Melo's clutch hoops and high-volume scoring predictably got the headlines on his debut night (27 points on 25 shots, 10 boards), but more important were the red-hot shooting of Toney Douglas (10/21, 23 pts) and steady play of Chauncey Billups (21 pts, six rebounds, eight assists).
Since moving East, Anthony has put up typical Melo numbers (24.6 ppg on .443/.404/.862, 6.2 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.8 to), but the Knicks have now lost four of five and are a ho-hum 7-7 since his acquisition, with their disappointing loss in Detroit on Friday dropping them to 7th in the East. The cynic in me says that's about what you should expect given Melo could never get over the hump in Denver despite a good supporting cast, but it's also still early. As good as they are, Amare and Melo both have the look of second-tier stars rather than championship cornerstones, but that might not be a problem if they can find a way to add Chris Paul or Deron Williams a year from this summer. That may be a pipe dream if the new CBA goes the way the owners hope, but at the very least the Knicks have reinvented themselves as a competitive team that's once again a prime destination for star players.
JS: Concussions take toll on Bucks
Charles Gardner provides some welcome news on Ersan Ilyasova, who's now missed 11 straight games since suffering a concussion in practice after the Knicks' win last month. Like Carlos Delfino, Ilyasova's symptoms were the result of a series of blows rather than just a single big hit, but he's likely to return to practice next week before returning to the lineup for what will hopefully be a relevant last couple weeks of the season.
"I feel much better now and am headache-free," Ilyasova said. "I worked out a couple days ago and did some on the bike.
"Today is my third workout and I'm improving every day."
Drew Gooden is also making progress and is on a similar timeline.
"He had no contact yesterday but probably did the most in the workouts he's been doing," Skiles said of Gooden, who had three separate shockwave therapy treatments for the plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
"I don't think it's going to be too much longer. Probably not tomorrow, but Monday, Tuesday get him in some more contact and see where he's at at that point."
Jeffries' return. It seems like an eternity ago that Jared Jeffries was making summer headlines for a full MLE deal that never worked out--cheers, Isiah!--but after being shipped to Houston in the Tracy McGrady deal last year he's found his way back to NYC and has quickly become a fixture in Mike D'Antoni's rotation. Jeffries still doesn't do anything statistically relevant, but in that sense he's basically the Knicks' Luc Mbah a Moute--a versatile defender who can start on the front line between the free-scoring Amare and Carmelo.
Assuming the Knicks stick with that lineup--rather than the beefier Turiaf/Stoudemire big combo they used last month--it could help the Bucks by allowing Mbah a Moute to focus on stopping Anthony rather than the longer Stoudemire. It's not that Bogut is ideally suited to stopping Stoudemire either, but the Aussie's superior size/strength should at least be of use on the other end. In theory.
UPDATE: Perhaps fearing the matchup issues it would bring, D'Antoni has opted to start Shelden Williams at center, moving Stoudmire to PF and Jeffries to the bench.
Surging Salmons. The Bucks' 31-year-old shooting guard has had his share of false starts over the course of the season, with his 22 ppg and 6.5 apg over a four game span at the end of February perhaps the most obvious example of his Jekyll and Hyde season. But two consecutive excellent performances (23.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 6.0 apg, 60% shooting in last two) have bumped his shooting percentage up to an even 40.0% and his true shooting mark to 50.0%, which as far as I can tell is the first time all season he's reached either figure. Is it too late for baby steps?
Bogut getting up, getting down. Not a monster stat line from Bogut against Brook Lopez on Friday (13 pts, 7 rebs, 4 blks), but a hot shooting night from everyone else thankfully made it a moot point. Bogut also banged his elbow in the fourth, but at the moment it doesn't appear serious--at least not in the sense that it made his balky arm notably worse. Early on Bogut also showed off the kind of strength with his right hand that we've seen only rarely, going up and over Kris Humphries with likely his best dunk of the season.