Following a 4-game road trip, the Milwaukee Bucks are finally back home to tussle with the New York Knicks. When last we saw these two teams face off, it was Milwaukee lambasting the Knickerbockers by 40-plus.
Following back-to-back victories over Sacramento and Portland, the Bucks ended their West Coast trip with a 3-1 record, their only scuffle being that smackdown in San Antonio, 126-102. Now at the halfway point of the season, Milwaukee boasts the NBA’s best record and remain on pace for 70 victories, a feat accomplished just twice in NBA history. Giannis, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe were the standouts against a weakened Blazers team, combining for 91 points with a combination of their inside-outside games complementing one another to deadly effect. Granted, Portland was stuck with playing poor Anthony Tolliver and Carmelo Anthony as their frontline defenders, but such is life sometimes. The Bucks only needed 21 minutes out of Giannis to beat the Knicks 132-88 last time. Given his lingering back issues, let’s hope for the same this evening.
Player to Watch: Wes Matthews
As Brian highlighted in his five observations piece, Matthews has failed to register more than one triple in seven of his last eight games. Given that’s his primary offensive role on this team, Milwaukee needs him to return to the hot-shooting ways he found to close out 2019. Maybe the Knicks will prove a fitting get-well opportunity for everyone’s favorite home state marksman.
In Knicks-Land, I can’t imagine a higher point for their fans than toppling one of the East’s upper crust teams, Miami, like they did on Sunday 124-121. R.J. Barrett and Julius Randle combined for 49 points, but Barrett managed his 23 on a hyper-efficient 10 shots. Despite shooting just 29% from deep, New York still prevailed. They will come to Milwaukee feeling elated after such an upset, but face a steep climb to recover from their bottoming out blowout over a month ago when they last visited Milwaukee. David Fizdale was fired just four days after that last Bucks win, so the Knicks come to town with a fresh coach in Mike Miller.
Player to Watch: Julius Randle
Randle has found his groove under Miller, and showed out with 26 in their last win. He’s upped his scoring output in December and January closer to 20 per game, and has accelerated his 3-point frequency a tad. His bread and butter is still bulldozing his way to the rim though. In the absence of many intriguing players on the roster, Randle takes the cake if only due to his competency. He’s undersized, so look for him to struggle finishing over the Bucks’ towers.
Game 42: Against New York, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)