The Other Guys. While Jason Kidd's return to Brooklyn on Wednesday night will grab most of the fanfare this week, there is in fact another game to be played before then, and it just so happens to come against Gotham's other, slightly more storied franchise. The Knicks and new head coach Derek Fisher roll into Milwaukee coming off a 109-93 win over the Nuggets on Sunday, mercifully snapping a seven-game skid that featured three losses by three or fewer points.
So what's wrong in NYC? Nothing terribly surprising, really. With Tyson Chandler shipped off to Dallas, the Knicks are just 24th defensively, and their four factor stats look like a team destined for mid-table mediocrity. The Knicks rank in the middle third of the league in effective field goal percentage, turnover rate and rebound rate both offensively and defensively, with only their own and allowed free throw rates falling outside the league's middle class (30th and 28th, respectively).
Carmelo Anthony still scores plenty, but thus far not quite as much or quite as efficiently as a year ago (23.9 ppg on 53.1% true shooting so far vs. 25.5 and 56.1% last season). Anthony's spoken of him no longer needing to score as much in the Knicks revamped triangle, though New York's 18th ranked offense might suggest that's not entirely true (yet). The good news for Knicks fans is that Melo might be coming around, having scored 46 points vs. the Jazz and 28 vs. the Nuggets over the weekend. Much of that success came from a renewed aggressiveness in the post, which you'd guess we'll see more of tonight against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. The Bucks managed to contain Anthony in their preseason win over the Knicks at MSG, but whether they can turn the trick twice in a month is another question. Good luck, kids.
Not helping matters is the ongoing absence of Jose Calderon (calf), while Iman Shumpert (who's actually playing well) is also listed as doubtful for tonight's contest. And we haven't even mentioned Andrea Bargnani, who is out "indefinitely" with a hamstring injury. Glad they gave up a future first round pick for him, eh?
Still, the Bucks can hardly take any team lightly. Despite their 5-5 record and an encouraging win on Sunday in Giannis Antetokounmpo's first start of the season vs. the Heat, the Bucks continue to struggle offensively (29th in offensive efficiency) and have been getting by on their domination of the paint on both ends. Moreover, while Kidd is preaching that the team not lose focus on the Knicks ahead of their trip to Brooklyn, it's only human for the staff and team to be just a little distracted. In that regard this should be a great test of where the Bucks are psychologically--young teams always seem more susceptible to distraction, and they can ill afford to feel too good about themselves after sneaking past the Heat on Sunday. Games like these--at home against a dinged up and not-great Eastern Conference team--should tell us plenty about whether the Bucks can keep up their encouraging start or have to settle for the inconsistency most expected from them.