Knicks: Posting and Toasting / Knickerblogger / New York Times / New York Daily News
Fresh off a blowout loss at home to the Pacers, the Bucks travel to New York hoping to take a bite out of the Knicks' 1.5 game lead for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. Milwaukee is 7-2 since their 119-115 win over the Knicks on March 9 kick-started a 7-2 Milwaukee run, but they've been unable to reel in New York, which is 6-1 since Mike Woodson took over for Mike D'Antoni two weeks ago.
Injury update. Both Jeremy Lin (sore knee) and Amare Stoudemire (back stiffness) are listed as questionable for tonight's game, while Jared Jeffries (inflamed right knee) and Bill Walker (elbow) are out.
UPDATE: Lin and Amare are both out, with Stoudemire's absence termed "indefinite." The playoff race plot thickens...
Freaky...Monday? The last time the Bucks and Knicks met, Milwaukee entered the game with splits of 103.2 pts scored/100 possessions (17th) and 105.9 pts/100 allowed. Seven wins and two losses later, their offensive ranking has rocketed to ninth and their efficiency has ballooned by over 2 pts/100 possessions, while their defense has roughly held steady (not that this is a positive thing).
And while the Bogut-less Bucks have surprisingly been refashioned into a high-scoring, defensively challenged bunch, the Knicks have undergone their own unexpected transformation that began under D'Antoni and has continued under Woodson. New York has climbed all the way to fifth in defensive efficiency yet remains stuck way down at 23rd in offensive efficiency terms; blame Tyson Chandler for the good, and the relative struggles of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire for the bad.
'Melo and 'Mare. While the Knicks' improved play of late has kept them in the driver's seat for the final playoff spot, the underwhelming performances of their "superstars" remains the obvious excuse for why they've underachieved relative to expectations. Carmelo's shooting splits (39.9% fg and 49.4% true shooting) are the worst of his career, while Amare's 17.6 ppg and true shooting figures (53.7%) are his worst marks since his rookie and sophomore campaigns, respectively.
Bucks' favorable schedule. Including tonight, the Bucks have 18 games remaining (11 home, 7 road) while the Knicks have 17 left (8 home, 9 road). A Bucks win at MSG tonight would also clinch the head-to-head tiebreaker for Milwaukee, who also beat the Knicks back in January behind Brandon Jennings' 36 points. After tonight the teams play one more game in Milwaukee on April 11.