The Knicks went down for the third game in a row on Sunday, losing 96-99 at home to the Hawks. Kristaps Porzingis was the major contributor for New York, adding 22 points, eight rebounds, four steals and five blocks. The loss sent them to 23-31, and dropped them behind the Hornets in the Eastern Conference standings. They are now in 11th place.
In contrast, the Bucks are going along nicely, and won 109-94 against the Nets in their last game. Eric Bledsoe had one of his best games in a Milwaukee uniform with 28 points and six assists, while John Henson was excellent with 19 points, 18 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. The win was their sixth in seven games as they continued their push up the standings. With a record of 29-23, they are now in fifth place in the east.
Three keys to the game
Tim Hardaway Jr’s shooting - Hardaway Jr is an important piece in the Knicks puzzle, with his 16.8 points per game this season making him their second most potent scorer. He has been going at 41.4% from the floor from the field so far in 2017/18, but his past three games have been simply woeful. He is 5-33 in these games, and has connected just once on 15 3-point attempts. He has failed to score in double figures in any of these games, and given he doesn’t contribute significantly in any other area, the Knicks will be eager for him to start putting the ball in the hoop.
Rebounding - One area of this matchup in which the Knicks actually have an advantage is rebounding. Thanks largely to the efforts of Kanter this season, they are a top five side in this category, grabbing 51.5% of available rebounds. In contrast, Milwaukee are better than only the Kings, the Magic, and the Mavericks - not the best company to keep.
Can the Knicks take care of the ball? - New York haven’t been great at this so far this season. They give it up on 15.3% of possessions, better than only six teams. The Bucks, with their long arms and agile defenders, get plenty of deflections and steals - they are ranked fifth in the league in the latter category. If the Knicks aren’t careful they will lose a lot of shot attempts as a result of turnovers in this game.
Matchup to watch
Kristaps Porzingis vs Giannis Antetokounmpo - These two unique and incredibly talented players will line up against one another at the four for the second time in less than a week. In that game, Porzingis struggled, going just 6-15 from the floor on the way to 17 points, seven boards and a block. Antetokounmpo, in contrast, was terrific, going for 29 points, 11 boards, two assists, three steals and two blocks, and scoring the game winning basket with less than two seconds to go. Porzingis will be hoping to get one back against the Greek Freak, but Antetokounmpo is the in-form guy out of the two of them at the minute.
New York Knicks predicted starting lineup
PG - Jarrett Jack | SG - Courtney Lee | SF - Tim Hardaway Jr | PF - Kristaps Porzingis | C - Enes Kanter
Milwaukee Bucks predicted starting lineup
PG - Eric Bledsoe | SG - Tony Snell | SF - Khris Middleton | PF - Giannis Antetokounmpo | C - John Henson
Porzingis has played seven times against the Bucks, and has performed reasonably without being spectacular. He averages 15.9 points on 43.7% shooting in these games, as well as 7.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks.
Antetokounmpo averages 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 15 career games against the Knicks. He also contributes 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks in these matchups.
Middleton’s 13 points per game against New York comes at just 39.7%, but strangely he shoots at 49.1% from downtown during these games from a fairly significant sample size of 53 shots. Perhaps he should stick to 3-pointers against the Knicks.
This one is predicted to be close, with the Knicks given just a 1.5 point head start by oddsmakers. When they met in Milwaukee last week, the Bucks only won by a couple of points, but expect them to do the job again here and cover the line. Quite simply, they are the better team, and though the Knicks play much better at home, they don’t have Antetokounmpo.
The respective performances of Porzingis and Antetokounmpo will have a lot of impact on the outcome of this game, and recent form suggests Giannis will be the more influential player on the floor.
New York play well at home, but with Hardaway Jr shooting terribly, they simply don’t have anywhere near as much support around their star as the Bucks. Bledsoe and Middleton will contribute to help Antetokounmpo, and Milwaukee will run out winners once again, this time 104-99.
The game will be broadcast locally on MSG Go and Fox Sports Wisconsin. Tip-off is at 7:30pm ET.