Giannis and the Bucks come to town as the Knicks try to fend off one of the beasts in the East and fix problems permeating throughout the team and rebuild.
After coming off an unlikely string of victories against playoff-bound teams, the New York Knicks find themselves floundering a three game losing streak if they can’t pull a win off against Milwaukee this Saturday.
The Bucks are on a tear this season. The Bucks are currently sitting pretty at 2nd place in the Eastern Conference. They’re ranked first in offense, points per game, rebounds, second in three-pointers made, three in field goal percentage, and fifth in Defensive Rating (DRtg). With a 15-6 record the Milwaukee Bucks are poised to take over the world, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is the not-so-secret weapon that’s giving them a good chance to succeed.
The Greek Freak is averaging 27.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game on 57.7 percent shooting. While the Bucks are a Gladys Knight and The Pips situation, the rest of his team are no slouches. Malcolm Brogdon, Tony Snell, and Khris Middleton are all shooting 40 percent from the three point line. Brook Lopez has found a rhythm of his own from three as well, ranking fourth in three-point percentage among starting centers. Milwaukee’s been steamrolling teams and they’ve been largely successful against bottom of the barrel teams. Will New York be any different.
State of the Knicks
New York stopped their free fall with their first three game winning streak of the season, but now they’re tasked with another challenge: continue the free fall or find a way to rebound after two bad losses.
Through 23 games, the Knicks are 29th in field goal percentage and last in assists per game at 18.6. The Knicks are back to where they started—bottom-dwellers in a bottom-heavy eastern conference. However, this game could be defining for them this season. They’ve gotten over the hump of a lengthy losing streak with three consecutive upset victories, but how will they respond to their current disappointing play? It’s like the old adage about great boxers: it’s not their biggest victory that defines their greatness, but rather how they overcome the losses.
Key Matchups and Areas
- Mitchell Robinson and Noah Vonleh versus Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis is a monster, but he’s not invincible. He’s shooting 11.8 percent from beyond the arc. The sole defense the Knicks will be able to deploy against the Greek Freak maybe containment. Vonleh, the most high energy forward on the team will initially be tasked with defending Antetokounmpo. His 7’4” wingspan has come in handy this season. Among Fizdale’s regular starters he has the lowest DRtg and leads the team in Net Rating. Offensively, I doubt he’ll have much luck, but if he can hold is own and prevent Giannis from Space Jam dunking the Knicks into oblivion, he’ll have done his job. Robinson will have a similar job. Recently, he’s been getting to foul trouble early on, fouling out in two of the last five games. The next step in his development will be having patience enough to prevent himself from giving up foolish fouls. He’s got the length and athleticism to bang with Giannis down low. His other qualities aren’t up to par; the Greek Freak’s strength could have him outmatched. It’s doubtful he’ll defend him properly, but it’s worth a shot and beneficial to his development.
As stated before the Knicks are last in assists per game while the Bucks have the fifth ranked defense in the NBA. This won’t bode well for them. The stats say that this is a match made in heaven for The Bucks, but the worst nightmare for the Knicks. However, New York has just as much length as Milwaukee with their personnel of Frank Ntilikina, Noah Vonleh, Mitchell Robinson, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Kevin Knox. If the youth can utilize their switchability and maintain communication with the appropriate amount of energy, they might be able to keep from being blown out.
The Bucks are second in the standings in the East and the Knicks are 10 behind. It’ll take a lot for the Knicks to make a good game of this, and the likelihood of a win is low, but if development is key, giving your all against the Goliath in the conference is the best way to show that you won’t be down for long.