After a demoralizing loss against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, the New York Knicks are looking to get back to winning ways when their road trip takes them to Milwaukee to face the Greek Freak and the Bucks.
In a resounding win against the Brooklyn Nets, the Knicks were able to sweep the season series against their crosstown rivals for the first time since the 2010–11 season. However, the next night in Boston, the ‘Bockers were unable to get any offensive momentum going against a Celtics team lacking Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, and a previously injured Gordon Hayward. Losing 103–73, and falling to 23–29 on the season isn’t ideal for New York headed into February. If the Knicks want to keep their playoff hopes alive, then a win against the Bucks would do wonders for collective confidence. Some sites have the Knicks running with a +4.5 spread against the Bucks, and if you’re not too sure how spread works, then there’s a bunch of great NBA betting guides out there that can help you out.
In a post–Jason Kidd era, the Bucks are 4–1, with four wins against relatively tame opposition, as Milwaukee defeated the Phoenix Suns, the Nets, the Chicago Bulls, and the Philadelphia 76ers (Brew City lost last night in Minnesota). Those wins elevated them from eighth seed in the Eastern Conference to seventh, paving the way for the possibility of playoff basketball for the young team.
Here are some of the things to watch for when the Knicks go to Wisconsin.
Battle of the Unicorns
One of the often talked about storylines regarding this matchup is the battle between Kristaps Porzingis and Giannis Antetokounmpo, wherein we find two diversely skilled big men, capable of doing a lot on both ends of the floor. Antetokounmpo leads the Bucks in points, rebounds, and assists thus far as he has put himself in the Most Valuable Player. Porzingis, too, is the focal point of the Knicks as he has cemented himself as the number one option on offense this season, as he has averaged 23.1 points per game, while also contributing 6.6 rebounds per game, and 2.3 blocks per game. Both players are some of the strongest at their position, making this out to be the best matchup of the night.
Trade deadline on the horizon
With the trade deadline now less than a week away, many Knicks will be looking to put on good performances ahead of what is anticipated to be another deadline where New York finds themselves as sellers. Notably, Courtney Lee and Kyle O’Quinn both linked with trades away and with both finding themselves as large contributors to the Knicks success, their aims will be to stuff the stat line and win.
Can Tim Hardaway Jr. produce against Khris Middleton
Against the Celtics, Tim Hardaway Jr. had the worst game since his return and arguably of the season as the prolific shooting guard was only able to shoot 1-of-10 from the field. Coming up against Middleton in the small forward matchup, Hardaway Jr. will look to expose Middleton’s drop in defensive standards and allow the offense to flow. Thus far this season, Middleton has posted a DRtg of 111 (the second worst of his career) and 1.3 defensive win shares (the third worst of his career), making this a matchup the Knicks’ will need to expose in order to win.
The Knicks and Bucks tip off at 8 p.m. EST on Friday, February 2 at the BMO Bradley Harris Center.