Bucks vs. Knicks Preview: Brandon Jennings meets Melo & company at MSG

USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a disheartening home loss to the Bulls, Brandon Jennings and the Bucks visit Madison Square Garden for the first time this season.

2012/2013 NBA Season
Nyk
(28-15, 16-6 home)
vs.
Mil_medium
(24-20, 12-10 road)
February 1, 2013
Madison Square Garden | New York, NY
6:30 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Raymond Felton PG Brandon Jennings
Jason Kidd SG Monta Ellis
Iman Shumpert SF Luc Mbah a Moute
Carmelo Anthony PF Ersan Ilyasova
Tyson Chandler C Larry Sanders
2012/13 Advanced Stats
90.5 (23rd) Pace 94.3 (5th)
111.0 (3rd) ORtg 103.2 (23rd)
106.2 (18th) DRtg 103.6 (10th)

On the Knicks: Posting And Toasting | Knickerblogger | Buckets Over Broadway

MSG vs. the month of February. Brandon Jennings has been right at home in the Big Apple over the years, averaging 25 ppg in his last four outings at Madison Square Garden. But will playing at his favorite venue be able to offset his bizarre struggles in the month of February?

Larry's health. The Bucks clearly missed Larry Sanders' presence (illness) in Wednesday's loss to the Bulls, but the good news is that Dr. Block traveled with the team to New York and is listed as probable for tonight's game. In Sanders' place, Sam Dalembert returned to the starting five and racked up his second double-double in as many games, though Jim Boylan noted that Dalembert still appears to be working his way back into shape.

"Sam is trying to work his way back into playing shape," Boylan said. "It's pretty evident when you watch him the first 6 or 7 minutes, he's playing very well.

"He kind of ran out of gas a little bit and every time I put him back in he'd have a bit of a spurt."

Dalembert didn't do himself any favors showing up to camp looking a bit doughy, and falling out of the rotation likely didn't help either. But it still feels kind of ridiculous to be talking about a professional athlete not being in good enough shape to play more than six or seven minutes, right?

Matching Melo. I generally like the idea of Ersan Ilyasova starting for this version of the Milwaukee Bucks, but the Knicks are one team where it creates major question marks. With Amare Stoudemire the all-star having become Amare Stoudemire the sixth man, Carmelo Anthony has transitioned to the starting power forward role and he's doing just fine, thank you. Try on these career-high numbers for size: scoring (29.1 ppg), true shooting percentage (56.9%), three point percentage (41.8%), PER (24.8) and win shares/48 (.189). I'm not sure Melo is capable of leading a team to a championship, but he's giving it his best shot.

Obviously the Bucks would love to match Luc Mbah a Moute against Melo and hide Ersan elsewhere, but the Knicks' smallish wings make that more difficult. They have a point guard playing shooting guard (Jason Kidd) and a shooting guard playing small forward (Iman Shumpert), which means there's really no one terribly obvious guy to match Ersan with. I suppose I'd prefer Larry Sanders over Ersan against Melo, but I'd expect Sanders to pick up two fouls in no time in that scenario and Ers would probably get alley-ooped a half-dozen times against Tyson Chandler.

Off the bench Boylan could also choose to throw Ekpe Udoh at Melo, which wouldn't be the first time Udoh has been tasked with defending one of the league's most dominant combo forwards. Recall that Udoh did a surprisingly respectable job against LeBron James in the Bucks' two matchups with the Heat this year. Still, this is one game where that whole Daniels/Mbah a Moute starting forward pairing would have looked pretty good, so don't be surprised if Daniels sees more burn than usual.

Perimeter D. Speaking of those two, Bradford Doolittle did an interesting study of perimeter defense over at ESPN.com and ranked both Daniels and Luc in the league's top ten among perimeter defenders.

Kidd back. Jason Kidd is expected back in the Knicks' lineup after missing Wednesday's win over Orlando with a sore back. With Kidd out, Mike Woodson started high-flying wing James White next to Shumpert and Ray Felton. But don't bank on the Knicks' other two elder statesmen making an appearance--Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace have both been out for a while with left foot injuries.

Role reversal. The 11/12 Knicks were pretty good (36-30), and the 12/13 version of Mike Woodson's squad has been clearly better. But from a four factors standpoint it's not a matter of incremental improvement so much as reinvention. The 11/12 squad ranked 5th in defensive efficiency and 17th in offensive efficiency, while the current team ranks 3rd offensively and 18th defensively. Which makes sense because last year's team was coached for 2/3 of the season by the notoriously defensive mind...Mike D'Antoni? Um, yeah.

Amare's back. He's coming off the bench, he's never going to be as great as he once was, and yet...well, Amare is actually playing some good basketball of late. Playing around 23 mpg in 13 games since returning from October knee surgery, Stoudemire is posting his highest TS% (62.7%) and WS/48 (.189) since 07/08, and his PER is damn good too (20.1, better than anyone on the Bucks). Positional stats from 82games suggest he's split his time between the power forward and center spots, though on Wednesday against the Magic he was a full-time backup to Tyson Chandler, playing only when Chandler was off the court. Looking at some other game flows on PopcornMachine.net, Stoudemire does play at times with Anthony and Chandler, particularly late in games. With Wallace and Camby out, the only traditional PF/C types on the roster are Chandler, Stoudemire and Thomas, which is another reason why Woodson

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