Coming off quite possibly their worst loss of the season to the basement-dwelling Hawks, the Knicks (23-31) will look to bounce back against the fifth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.

On the Friday before the Atlanta game, the Knicks lost a heartbreaker to the Bucks on another (!!) Giannis game winner. Tonight, the Knicks will have a chance to get a win over those same Bucks, this time at home in New York. I apologize if you experienced this heartbreak in real time, but here it is once more.

Let’s look at some keys to fending off Giannis and the Bucks tonight at MSG.

Lance Thomas’s Defensive Energy

Listen, nobody is going to stop Giannis. He gets where he wants to on the floor and has such long limbs that he can pedal his way to the rim in slow motion, easily reacting to any help coming in late. The best shot against him is to contain him with some physicality. Bump him with your chest as his tries to get around you, push him off his spots, and force him to make those tough passes two dribbles into his drive. Make someone else beat the close-out.

That’s exactly what Lance Thomas did against him last Friday.

Giannis is surely a superstar, but he still doesn’t have much of a jumper. Thomas did a great job tracking him around screens. He would typically go under them since Giannis is reluctant to shoot the long mid-range jump shot, but would hop up to not give Giannis enough room to get going downhill towards the rim.

If Lance can repeat his defensive effort from Friday tonight, he will put the Knicks in a great position to win this game if they execute properly elsewhere.

Late Game Execution

This has been a problem all year for the Knicks. The offense looks pretty and fluid, and then the fourth quarter comes and the ball stops hopping around. We just saw a flurry of mental mistakes in the final minutes against Milwaukee and Atlanta over the past few days. Kyle O’Quinn took a tough contested jumper while Doug McDermott was open under the rim, Tim Hardaway Jr. clanked a fadeaway off a rebound that he should have reset, and Burke tossed THJ the ball while he was out of bounds on the last play.

It comes down to having a winning mindset and putting forth the effort down the stretch. The NBA is tough. There are great players on every team and you need to bring the energy for 48 minutes. When the Knicks are up, they zone out and let other teams back in the game. When they are down, they don’t seem to muster up the strength to fully sustain a comeback.

Kristaps had this to say about the team’s struggles down the stretch following their loss to the Hawks:

“That was our game.. We just didn’t finish it. We don’t know how to win yet… Until we learn how to execute and do the right thing at the end, until then we’ll drop games like this that are our games for sure.”

The Knicks always play the Bucks close until the end, so expect this one to come down to the wire. Hopefully, these tight losses will light a fire under the Knicks and give them that push they need to close games out.

Timmy’s struggles

Hardaway Jr. was involved in two of the Hawks game’s deciding moments and floundered on both of them. He also missed two free throws down the stretch against the Bucks. Did I mention he’s made 5 of his last 33 shots? You could say he’s struggling right now. He even took the full blame for the last two losses.

The Bucks defensive length may challenge the Knicks perimeter players tonight, but if Hardaway Jr. can right the ship and get it going, he will open up a lot more space for the rest of the players to operate with.

Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM EST.