With rookie Mitchell Robinson sidelined yet again, the Knicks look to snap a five-game losing streak as they take on the Milwaukee Bucks for the fourth and final time this season.
The New York Knicks (9-26) face the Milwaukee Bucks (23-10) for the second time this week, following a Christmas game that ended in a double-digit loss for New York.
Tonight, the youthful Knicks have the opportunity split their season series with Milwaukee. They’ll need to tap into some key areas if they hope to pull out a win against this top-ranked Bucks team.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has been a terror on both sides of the floor. The best way to manipulate and contain him is to keep him on his toes. David Fizdale credited Noah Vonleh for his defensive efforts against the Greek Freak in the Christmas Day game, one the Knicks’ few bright spots on Tuesday. He even managed to block one of Antetokounmpo’s shots. Although the Bucks leading man finished with a 30-point, 14-rebound double-double, it could have gone way worse.
If the Knicks hope to replicate or improve on their defense, they’ll need every bit of Vonleh’s effort and willing bodies like Tim Hardaway Jr. stepping in front for charges. Forcing Giannis to take jumpers may be their only way to contain him.
Noah Vonleh's effort was on full display on Christmas.
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) December 26, 2018
Every defense tends to collapse on Antetokounmpo once he drives into the lane, but that usually leaves a shooter or two open. A prominent feature of the Bucks’ offense could be stifled if the Knicks can use their lanky, athletic personnel to close out on shooters and body them up beforehand. Hardaway Jr., Emmanuel Mudiay, and Kevin Knox will be filling out the wing positions with a defensively sloven Kanter at the 5. On Christmas, they held the Bucks to 18.8 percent shooting from deep.
Pulling together a similar effort could bring a win within reach.
Defending the Paint
Even when the Bucks couldn’t hit water if they were on a boat, they still managed to outscore the Knicks in the paint by 10 points.
Bucks shot 3-10, 0-8, 2-8 from 3 in the first three quarters of the Christmas Day game… they still had a 36 point 3rd quarter and led by 16 going into the 4th
— Ty Jordan (@DefinitelyNotTy) December 27, 2018
Moving the Ball
Going up against a long, defense-focused team like the Bucks, an isolation-oriented approach just won’t work. The Knicks only tallied 17 assists in the teams’ last matchup. The natural slashers like Mudiay, Knox, and Trier need to use their gifts to get in the paint and dish to the open man for better looks. Ball movement is the Knicks’ best hope of igniting their offense.
Effective Three-Point Shooting
The Knicks are still at the bottom of the barrel in three point shooting, but this doesn’t mean they can’t utilize the shot to work to their advantage. If the Bucks begin the game sagging off of the Knicks’ wing players, perhaps the Knicks should let a few easy shots fly. The alternative of facing Giannis and Co. in the paint may have a similar rate of success. Besides, if the Knicks can drive like mentioned before, there could be an open man more often than expected.
- After a Christmas Day benching that people won’t shut up about, Frank Ntilikina is expected to return. His defense and length could be crucial to helping defend Antetokounmpo. With Mitchell Robinson still out, the Knicks will need all the defensive help they can muster.
- In the fourth game against their Eastern Conference rival, the Knicks are down 2-1 in the season series. A win to snap a five-game losing streak would boost morale for their upcoming daunting road trip.