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Bucks vs. Knicks Preview: Stiff challenge awaits against Carmelo Anthony and surging Knicks

Fresh off a stinging home defeat to the Timberwolves, the Bucks return to the road to face the red-hot Carmelo Anthony and his similarly red-hot Knicks.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

2012/2013 NBA Season
(48-26, 27-10 home)
(36-38, 16-19 road)
April 5, 2013
Madison Square Garden | New York, NY
6:30 CT
FS Wisconsin Alternate | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Raymond Felton PG Brandon Jennings
Pablo Prigioni SG Monta Ellis
Iman Shumpert SF Marquis Daniels
Carmelo Anthony PF Ersan Ilyasova
Tyson Chandler C Larry Sanders
2012/13 Advanced Stats
89.8 (26th) Pace 94.6 (4th)
110.5 (3rd) ORtg 104.1 (21st)
106.1 (16th) DRtg 105.4 (14th)

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

Knicks update. Having won 10 in a row, the Knicks boast the league's longest active winning streak and arguably its hottest player in Carmelo Anthony, who followed up a 50-point effort against the LeBron-less Heat on Tuesday with another 40 points in Atlanta 24 hours later. Needless to say, Marquis Daniels and Luc Mbah a Moute will have their hands full on Friday night.

Call the Knicks methodical, but don't call them ineffective. Mike Woodson's Melo-centric system doesn't push the pace much (26th) and ranks dead last in fast break points per game (8.7), but it still works damn well. New York boast the league's third-best offense in efficiency terms, leaning heavily on Anthony's isolation game while surrounding him with a bunch of guys that shoot a ton of spot-up threes (2nd in league in attempts and makes) and never cough it up (1st in turnover rate). Not a bad recipe.

The Knicks' defense isn't quite so impressive, particularly with big men Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace, Amare Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin all spending significant amounts of time on the shelf with injury (or otherwise not on the team in Martin's case). New York still ranks among the league's top four teams in forcing turnovers and grabbing defensive boards, but their overall efficiency is just average (16th).

Small and smaller. The Knicks have regularly started two point guards this season, with Jason Kidd lining up beside Raymond Felton earlier in the season and Pablo Prigioni taking over for Kidd of late. But Woodson's small starters obscure the fact that sixth man J.R. Smith plays 33 mpg and is a critical piece of the Knicks' closing unit, so they're not really as small as they seem. Still, don't be surprised if Monta Ellis gets some post looks early--the Bucks typically like to give Ellis those touches when he's being defended by someone his size or smaller.

The Knicks are also a bit undersized up front--partially by design and partially due to injuries. Anthony is certainly small by power forward standards, but he does so much damage against mismatched defenders that his lack of size isn't really a problem. So while Chandler may end up being the only traditional big man the Bucks see tonight--especially if Kenyon Martin misses out--don't take that to mean the Bucks' likely size advantage will translate into a results advantage up front.

Hiding Ersan. Look for Marquis Daniels to defend Anthony early as the Bucks will try to hide Ersan Ilyasova defensively on the perimeter whenever possible. Ilyasova saw a lot of Kidd last time out, but given Prigioni and Felton's quickness I'd guess Ilyasova will see more of Iman Shumpert (who's far more athletic than Ilyasova but has mostly been a three-point specialist since coming back from an ACL tear) or Chandler (who will presumably throw down a couple alley-oops on his dome) this time around. Could be some very weird matchups.

Fortunately, Ilyasova has been nothing short of awesome on the offensive end the past couple months, as his numbers since the all-star break suggest: 19.1 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 58.3% true shooting including 49.8% from the field and 46.4% from three. He'll never be a great defender, but his rebounding has come around of late (16.0% since the break, 14.0% overall) and his floor-stretching ability is invaluable for a team that has no other consistent marksmen in the starting lineup. His 29 points and 12 boards in the Bucks' awful home loss on Wednesday give him a career-high four straight outings of 20+ points, and Milwaukee will likely need another big night from him to have a chance on Friday.