Bucks vs. Knicks Preview | Milwaukee getting healthy as season opens against Carmelo Anthony & Co. in New York

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

A week after downing the Knicks in Green Bay, the Bucks head to MSG to play their first game that actually counts. And with Brandon Knight, Caron Butler and possibly Ersan Ilyasova back in the lineup, they're getting healthy just in time.

2013/14 NBA Season
Mil_medium
(0-0, 0-0 road)
vs.
Nyk
(0-0, 0-0 home)
October 30, 2013
Madison Square Garden | New York, NY
6:30 CT
FS Wisconsin / MSG | 620 WTMJ / Audio League Pass
Probable Starters
Brandon Knight PG Pablo Prigioni
O.J. Mayo SG Raymond Felton
Khris Middleton SF Iman Shumpert
Caron Butler PF Carmelo Anthony
Larry Sanders C Tyson Chandler
2012/13 Advanced Stats
94.7 (3rd) Pace 89.8 (26th)
103.6 (22nd) ORtg 111.1 (3rd)
105.2 (12th) DRtg 106.3 (17th)

Linkage: Posting And ToastingKnickerbloggerBuckets Over BroadwayBucks Game Notes | Knicks Game Notes

Starting fives. Both teams roll into their season opener with uncertainty in their starting fives: the Bucks because of injury (is Ersan Ilyasova healthy enough to start?), the Knicks because of Mike Woodson's lineup tinkering.

UPDATE: Butler and Middleton will start at the forward spots while Ilyasova is likely to be available for limited minutes. Knicks PR says the Knicks will go small in the backcourt with Pablo Prigioni joining Felton and Iman Shumpert sliding to small forward. Metta World Peace and Andrea Bargnani will both come off the bench.

Though Woodson preferred Andrea Bargnani at the 4 spot through most of the preseason, rumblings following today's practice suggested Carmelo Anthony would return to the starting power forward position he occupied for most of last season, with Metta World Peace likely to start alongside him at the other forward spot. Our bud Seth Rosenthal from Posting & Toasting is down with that:

We didn't get to see all that much of it in preseason, but the idea of a Metta-Melo-Tyson frontcourt makes a whole lot of sense to me, and I hope that grouping gets the lion's share of minutes. The "three" and "four" stuff with Melo doesn't matter at all. What matters is that World Peace can hit open threes well enough to space the floor and defend well enough to ease Melo's burden on the other end. (And if it's a two-point guard lineup without Metta, well, we've seen that work just fine). The Knicks will find a place for Andrea Bargnani, but for the time being, the first unit doesn't appear to be it.

Meanwhile, Ilyasova went full speed during Tuesday's workout but is listed as questionable for the opener and would likely see limited minutes even if he is deemed fit to play. We've penciled Khris Middleton and Caron Butler in as the starting forwards until further notice, though Drew did indicate on Tuesday that Butler would likely play more of the 4-spot in that lineup with Middleton at the three. Andrew Gruman reports:

"My mind likes it, my body is trying to get used to it banging with the bigger guys," Butler said of playing power forward. "I think it's fun. It's a style and direction the NBA is heading toward -- more smaller, fast-pace basketball. It's fun to play that way, and we have had success playing it. I'm going to look forward to playing a lot of four periodically throughout the season."

Themes. We still know relatively little about how all the Bucks' pieces will fit together this season, but some topics are more obvious than others heading into game one:

  • Can the new, perimeter-focused Bucks keep up with the Knicks' bombs away approach to offense? Milwaukee finished 9th in the league with just over 20 three-pointers attempted per game last season, but New York averaged a league-leading 29 per game and finished fifth in percentage to boot. Steve's already gone into detail about why the Bucks will need to look more like the Knicks this year in terms of shot selection, and the results speak for themselves: 8 of the top 9 teams in three point attempts last year made the playoffs. But without a dominant wing or post option to draw defensive attention, can Milwaukee create enough open looks to follow suit?
  • Anthony is likely to get his 20+ points no matter what the Bucks do, so the goal should be making him work for his points and earn his money on long twos rather than shots at the basket and from the foul line. The challenge is that Melo was money from outside the paint last year (43% long twos, 38% threes), though he also took more long jumpers than anyone other than Steph Curry (12.6 shots from 16+ feet vs. Melo's 11.6). 

    With Luc Mbah a Moute and Marquis Daniels gone, the Bucks no longer have anyone remotely in the "stopper" category, so we'll get a look at what Butler, Middleton and possibly Giannis Antetokounmpo can muster against Anthony. The Bucks also showed a fair bit of zone in Green Bay a week ago, so we'll have to see if Larry Drew liked what he saw enough to try it some more.
  • Antetokounmpo will likely be the only small forward available to Larry Drew off the bench, so my guess is that he'll end up making his NBA debut at some point on Wednesday. But unless Middleton or Butler run into serious foul trouble (always a possibility with Melo involved), I'd be (pleasantly) surprised to see Giannis play more than 10-12 minutes.
  • The Bucks should try to run against every opponent, but the Knicks aren't the easiest team to do it against. New York was among the league's slower teams in terms of pace, ranked fourth in terms of preventing opponent fast break points (11.7 ppg). The plus side? No team scored fewer points in transition last season either (8.5 ppg).
  • O.J. Mayo is everyone's best bet to lead the Bucks in scoring this season, so I'll guess that he does it in game one, too--especially with Ilyasova short of 100%. He played a complete game against the Knicks in Green Bay, so here's to hoping he can muster an encore under the decidedly brighter lights at MSG.
For your in-game viewing pleasure, we've assembled the Twitter stream below to complement the game-thread discussion:

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