After a one-week “All-Star break,” the Milwaukee Bucks hit the Fiserv Forum hardwood for the season’s second act, looking to boost their playoff seeding and continuing to solidify themselves for an NBA Finals run. First up is a rematch with the team who pretty soundly handed them their second loss of the season back in December: the New York Knicks. The Bucks shot a season-low 18.4% from downtown on that forgettable evening, while the Knicks torched them to the tune of 59.3% behind the arc (which is somehow just the 4th-best three-point performance by an NBA team in this lights-out season, minimum 12 attempts).
Where We’re At
The Bucks concluded the first half nicely by winning 6 of 7 games, the last three of which saw Jrue Holiday return to the rotation after recovering from a bout with COVID-19. He played 18 minutes in the first two and 23 in the third, so we’ll see what another week of conditioning does for his minute load tonight. Giannis Antetokounmpo, fresh off his essentially-perfect All-Star appearance, will tote his All-Star MVP trophy back to Milwaukee as he re-inserts himself in the real-MVP conversation after averaging 31.7 PPG over the previous month. The team as a whole began to click nicely leading up to the break, particularly defensively as they’ve negated some rough nights from deep by holding opponents beneath their season 3P% in 8 straight games.
The Knicks finished their surprisingly-solid first half a game above .500 after winning 8 of their last 11 contests (against mostly lower-tier teams), but they’re currently 5th in the East, and that even has head coach Tom Thibodeau smiling. Julius Randle validated his All-Star selection during that stretch by averaging 25.5 points, 11.5 boards, and 4.8 assists on .517/.458/.818 shooting—including a big 44 point effort against Atlanta. This all has come while missing Mitchell Robinson, their defensive lynchpin. New York still managed to put up the 8th-best DRtg in the league after he fractured his right hand on February 12th at 108.3, essentially the same as their season-long number of 108.8, which is second-best in the Association. Having another rim protection whiz like Nerlens Noel as an understudy helps.
Outside of Jordan Nwora, who is still nursing a sprained ankle, Milwaukee’s injury report is clear. New York will be missing Derrick Rose (COVID protocol), Mitchell Robinson (recovering from hand surgery), and Austin Rivers (personal reasons), while Taj Gibson (sprained ankle) is questionable.
Player To Watch
While Randle had a big game last time out at Madison Square Garden, the success of suspect shooters like Elfird Payton and Frank Ntilikina really stuck out as the Knicks buried the Bucks under a barrage of 16 threes. Milwaukee had a lot of trouble with those two and Alec Burks on the perimeter, but Payton did some serious damage in the paint too with a bevy of floaters. The journeyman PG typically doesn’t scare anyone on offense, but he’s upped his scoring in the last month and if the Bucks are as indifferent to him as they were on his 27 point, 7 assist night on 12/16 shooting (including 3/3 from deep for a 28.5% career 3 point shooter) night in December, the sledding will be needlessly tougher.
Game 37: Against New York, the Bucks will…
This poll is closed
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)