The Knicks (28-51) had an impressive victory yesterday, downing the playoff-bound Heat 122-98. Damyean Dotson was the surprise catalyst for the win, with last year’s pick 44 scoring 30 points and grabbing 11 rebounds off the bench.
On Saturday they will play their second game in two days at Madison Square Garden when they host the Bucks. Milwaukee (42-37) have a little more to play for, being locked in a three-way battle for sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Despite the motivation this invariably provides, they could not get over the line against the Nets on Thursday. Milwaukee were poor on defense, allowing Brooklyn to score 119 points in the game.
Three keys to the game
Rebounding - This has been an area of concern all season for the Bucks and is something they must clean up come playoff time. They are ranked ahead of only Orlando and Dallas for rebounding in the league, grabbing just 48.2% of available boards this season. The Knicks, incidentally, have been solid, coming in at 12th in the NBA in the category.
Taking care of the basketball - New York will need to be careful with the ball against the long-armed Bucks. Milwaukee cause a lot of turnovers and score 18.4 points off them per game - more than any side other than OKC.
Fatigue factor - This will be the second game in as many days for the Knicks, and though both have been at home, they will likely be feeling the pinch given it is the third last game of what is a very long season. Considering they have nothing to play for, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them take the foot off the accelerator in this one.
Matchup to watch
Frank Ntilikina vs Eric Bledsoe - As the season winds to a close for a Knicks, Ntilikina is being given increasing responsibility. The Frenchman is now starting at point guard, and in his last game racked up nine assists. Scoring is still a problem though, with his last three games yielding only 13 combined points. His value, however, is not limited to that end of the floor; Ntilikina is an excellent defender and will make Bledsoe work hard to contribute on offense.
Bledsoe is an experienced player and has been reasonable since moving to Milwaukee. In this time he is averaging 17.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.1 steals per game. Bledsoe scored 70 points in two games earlier in the week, but he will have his work cut out reproducing that sort of output against Ntilikina.
New York Knicks predicted starting lineup
PG - Frank Ntilikina | SG - Trey Burke | SF - Damyean Dotson | PF - Tim Hardaway Jr | C - Kyle O’Quinn
Milwaukee Bucks predicted starting lineup
PG - Eric Bledsoe | SG - Tony Snell | SF - Khris Middleton | PF - Giannis Antetokounmpo | C - John Henson
Antetokounmpo has been hard to stop for the Knicks this season. In the three games between the sides, the Greek Freak has averaged 26.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.0 steals and 2.0 blocks. In his career against the Knicks, Antetokounmpo has put up 18.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks.
Milwaukee have been given a 9.5 point handicap in this game, and they should be able to breeze past this. They have plenty to play for and won’t lose to a poor team twice in a row, while the Knicks are ready for the season to end. Back the Bucks at the line.
The Bucks will win this one easily. New York’s motivation levels must be dwindling, and they will take this game a little easy after a good win against Miami yesterday. They are injury-riddled, and against the talent of Antetokounmpo surrounded by Bledsoe and Middleton, the Bucks shouldn’t have too many problems with this one. Milwaukee will run out 111-99 winners.
The game will be broadcast locally on MSG Go and Fox Sports Wisconsin. Tip-off is at 7:30pm ET.