The Milwaukee Bucks have found some kind of groove while settling in at home, having won 13 of 15 overall, and tonight they welcome the New York Knicks for their final game of the homestand. The season series stands at 1-1 between these two teams, with a thumping each in their corner. We’ll see who comes out on top.
Where We’re At
Milwaukee’s string of upper echelon play started more than a month ago following two dispiriting back-to-back losses against the Toronto Raptors. As March is coming to a close, they find themselves in the thick of the battle for the Eastern Conference’s top seed and preparing for a six-game road trip out west. Their latest 114-122 dud against the Celtics aside, they’re playing their best ball of the season. They need Giannis Antetokounmpo to return to the MVP level though, especially after two relatively quiet games against Boston.
They get the Knicks for the final time this season, and only two weeks removed from putting a 134-101 decimation atop Tom Thibodeau’s squad. Of course, it was only fitting after New York embarrassed Milwaukee 130-110 in just the third game of the season. The Bucks benefited from 47.4% 3-point shooting in their most recent win over New York, but they also outscored the Knicks in the paint by 20 points. Giannis posted 24 points, 10 boards and 10 assists in just 29 minutes. I was about to say any game where no Bucks starter plays above 30 minutes is a good one, but I don’t want to jinx any of the extended playing leash Bud’s granted his players this year.
As for the Knicks, they’ve remained downright frisky. I figured they would tail off, but they’ve hung around .500, which keeps you right in the chase for an Eastern Conference Playoff seed. For once, the Bucks won’t actually have a rest advantage in this one, coming off a back-to-back while the Knicks had Friday off after taking down the Washington Wizards 106-102 on Thursday evening. R.J. Barrett put up 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while Alec Burks went off for 27 from the bench. Barrett may still not be an elite shooter, but for someone who has to create for himself aplenty, a steady uptick in his eFG% this season has to be somewhat encouraging for Knicks fans.
New York plays at the slowest pace in the league, in contrast to Bud’s breakneck Bucks. They’ve also posted the third best defensive rating this season, despite the fact they’re giving up the 6th highest percentage of opponent shots from deep (and more than MKE) and the 5th highest opponent percentage of shots at the rim. They have the third best rim defense though, which kinda tracks with Mitchell Robinson and Nerlens Noel, but opponents shooting 33.6% from deep, 1.3% better than the second best mark in the league, continues to seem unsustainable to me. It caught up to them in the last Bucks game. Let’s see what happens here.
The Bucks will be missing Bobby Portis most likely due to the league’s health and safety protocols, and P.J. Tucker/Rodions Kurucs were also out on Friday. Stay tuned for an updated injury report early afternoon. As for the Knicks, they list Reggie Bullock and Nerlens Noel as questionable, while Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton are probable. Their trade deadline pick-ups, Terrance Ferguson and Vincent Poirier, are out.
Player to Watch
Obi Toppin may have been the Knicks lottery selection, but it’s been their other first round pick, Immanuel Quickley, who has turned more heads this season. The 25th overall selection out of Kentucky is averaging 12.8 points per game, and just over two assists and boards a night. He’s a deadeye from the line and up to 37% from deep. Given he usually comes off the bench, I’ll be curious to see who Bud trusts among his guard rotation to try and curtail the rookie’s scoring ability.
Game 45: 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)
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