Last time the Knicks matched up with the Bucks, New York’s season was irreversible altered with an injury to Porzingis. The Knicks are in Milwaukee this time, trying to unseat the Bucks from their playoff hopes.
The tanks rolls into Milwaukee Friday night as the Knicks face a Bucks team that should be hungry for a win. I’ll be honest, I had a little PTSD when I saw this matchup. As we all know, we lost King Kristaps the last time New York faced off with the Bucks. That was just the beginning of what has turned a promising season into a typical post-Ewing Knicks season.
But as the saying goes, the past is the past. Tonight the implicit goal is to lose tonight—the explicit goal should be for the young guys to continue to share the floor together as the extended rebuild continues. It’s been tough sledding for the team as of late as they come in losers of five in a row. Can they right the ship before they finally return home? Let’s break down what to expect.
I promise I’m not trying to break the world record for the use of “tank” in a blog. But, come on, what else is there really left to talk about? Despite their 1–13 record over their last 14 games, the Knicks still sit ninth in the lottery. That gives them a 6.1 percent chance at a top-three selection and a 1.7 percent chance at winning the lottery. Those are roughly the same odds Emmanuel Mudiay has of winning Knicks fans over.
Crazier things have happened in the lottery, but if I’ve learned one thing from my Knick fandom it is this—anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. That might not be a bad thing right about now as the Bulls are a hot streak away from allowing the Knicks to catch them for eighth place, which would bump their odds to 9.9 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively. Before you scoff, remember every ping pong ball counts.
We were greeted with two blizzards in New York this past Wednesday. The first was the actual storm, and the other was the Knicks point guards’ collective icy performance. The combination of Mudiay, Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke shot 5-for-28 from the field. If that already looked bad, they were goosed from beyond the arc shooting a combined 0-for-6. Not the best look. Hopefully it was simply an off night because the Bucks present a more athletic matchup compared to the shorter and offensive-minded duo of Dame Lillard and McCollum.
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
In his first career start, Frank Ntilikina debuted not at the point, but at the two guard spot. He performed exactly as one would have imagined he would. He started in place of Courtney Lee at shooting guard, alongside Mudiay and Tim Hardaway Jr. In an ideal world this threesome kills it and becomes something they can couple with the return of Porzingis.
Right now that is not the case. On defense, the combo of Mudiay and Frank remains promising. Their size gives them the ability to switch anything and wreak havoc on smaller guards. On offense, though, is where this pairing falls off a cliff. Frank’s shot will come around, but right now it’s not and Mudiay’s shot will never arrive. Tonight they will be put to the test as Eric Bledsoe and Tony Snell matchup well in the size and athleticism department. If they can corral Bledsoe and score on Snell there might be some promise with this backcourt yet.
Matchup of the Night: Emmanuel Mudiay vs. Eric Bledsoe
Let’s face the facts. Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to feast whenever he pleases. There is no one on the roster that can stop that. Conversely, Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn will gobble up boards. There is nothing the Bucks can do to stop that. Where this game could be decided is at point guard.
Overall, Mudiay has left a lot to be desired. He caught fire for a New York minute against the Warriors but since then it has not been too peachy. To be fair, he is still new and will have all of next season to win over the team and the fans. Tonight against another point guard the Knicks inquired about, Mudiay can start to make his case to stay in NYC.
Mudiay possesses the size to give Bledsoe trouble on both ends of the floor. It would be great to see him put that to use and bully his way to the rack and corral Bledsoe on the perimeter. Mudiay has become the new J.R. Smith in the sense that he is exponentially better when he attacks. Hopefully tonight is the night he learns what he’s best at tonight.
Tip-off is at 8:00 p.m. EST from Milwaukee.