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Knicks vs. Bucks Preview: Jeremy Lin And Brandon Jennings Battle For Eighth Seed

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2011/2012 NBA Season


18-21 (7-12 road) 15-24 (9-9 home)
March 9, 2012
Bradley Center
7:30 PM CT
Radio: 620 WTMJ TV: FSN Wisconsin
Probable starters:
Jeremy Lin PG
Brandon Jennings
Iman Shumpert SG Carlos Delfino
Carmelo Anthony SF Tobias Harris
Amare Stoudemire PF Ersan Ilyasova
Josh Harrelson C Drew Gooden

101.4 (22nd) - OFFENSE - 103.2 (17th)
100.5 (9th) - DEFENSE - 105.9 (22nd)
94.2 (2nd) - PACE - 92.4 (7th)
On the Knicks: Posting and Toasting / Knickerblogger / New York Times / New York Daily News

Milwaukee gets its first look at Jeremy Lin when the Knicks visit the Bradley center on Friday night, but it's much more than a novelty matchup for both teams. With the Bucks trailing the Knicks by three games for the eighth and final playoff spot, it's also arguably the Bucks' biggest game of the season: a win would bring them back to within two games of the Knicks for the eighth and final playoff spot, while a loss would heap further pressure on the Bucks to move key assets--Ersan Ilyasova and Andrew Bogut anyone?--ahead of next week's trade deadline.

Trade rumors. No one is safe!

Pumped up Knicks. It's been a long six weeks since the Bucks beat the Knicks 100-86 in the teams' first matchup of the season at MSG on January 20. The Bucks' win snapped a string of eight consecutive road losses to start the season, with Brandon Jennings once again putting on a show in New York with a season-high 36 points. Meanwhile, the Knicks were bottoming out, arguably hitting a symbolic low point with consecutive home losses to the road winless Bucks and then Nuggets. The latter wouldn't have been a notable loss for any other team, but Danilo Gallinari having a career night against Carmelo Anthony takes on a slightly different meaning for New York.

Temporary Linsanity? Jeremy Lin was a Knick back on January 20, but he had yet to crack Mike D'Antoni's lineup and would have to wait another two weeks before his first start against the Jazz on February 4. The rest is of course history. Lin's insertion into the starting lineup revitalized a Knick team dealing with its two stars' injuries and ineffectiveness, with Lin's starting performances ranking among the best starts in NBA history. However, the reintegration of Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony into the New York lineup hasn't been seamless, and Lin's mixed performances of late are certainly part of the Knicks' recent struggles as well.

Even so, Lin's numbers as a starter remain impressive: 20.9 ppg, 8.4 apg, 2.3 spg and 3.9 rpg on .458/.362/.743 shooting. While he's also been a turnover machine (5.1 to/g), he's also made up for it somewhat with efficient volume scoring (55.3% true shooting) in spite of teams increasingly focusing on him defensively. Lin's emergence is in many ways unprecedented, but it does remind me a bit of Ramon Sessions' performances for the Bucks a few years ago: both were bigger PGs (6'3") who excelled in pick and roll while using their shifty, deceptive athleticism to continually find ways into the lane. Both piled up some monster stats seemingly out of nowhere, but odds are that Lin gets a much better shot at keeping a long-term starting job than Sessions.

Jackson practices, talks. You never want players to be hurt, but we can all agree that it's been kind of nice not hearing anything about Stephen Jackson for the past week or two, right? His lingering hamstring injury won't make the difficult task of trading him any easier, but at a minimum his absence made things feel a little less, how do you say...dramatic for a couple weeks. Either way, the fun is set to begin again as Jackson is back at practice--and Scott Skiles isn't making any promises about what comes next.

"Who knows," Skiles said when asked that question. "A bunch of things got lost in what was going on. Up until the point he stopped playing, he was second on the team in minutes, second on the team in field goals attempted, second on the team in scoring.

"But he was shooting 36% (from the field) and 26% (from three-point range). Jack was getting opportunities. And I know he wasn't happy with that. We'll see what happens. We'll see if he can go and we'll react accordingly."

Well put, Mr. Skiles. Jackson of course thinks that he deserves a ton of minutes because he's always gotten a ton of minutes damnit, but everyone with a half-rational view of the world knows that's not a terribly compelling argument. Want minutes? Go earn them. Or don't, and be a "professional" by complaining anytime someone puts a mic in front of you.

To be honest I expected the Bucks to suffer through Jackson's inefficiency and inconsistency for at least one season, but the superior play of guys like Mike Dunleavy and even rookie Tobias Harris has made a major role for Jackson increasingly difficult to justify. Maybe Skiles hasn't always handled Jackson's ego as well as he should, but he also deserves credit for not giving him an excessively long leash either.