New York Knicks at Milwaukee Bucks Preview
The best in the East will face off against one of the worst in the East on Monday night when the 17-3 Milwaukee Bucks face off against the 4-16 New York Knicks in Milwaukee. The Bucks have withstood the loss of Malcolm Brogdon (free agency) and an injury to Khris Middleton mostly thanks to the reigning MVP’s stellar start to the season. Giannis Antetokounmpo has gone up a couple of levels since his havoc-wreaking 2018-19 season. No team has an answer for matching up with Giannis, and I can’t blame them. Giannis is unlike any player the league has ever seen.
The Knicks are bad. No need for a press conference to address it (you hear me Knicks front office?). No sensible NBA fan saw the offseason moves the Knicks made after they swung and missed on the tier-1 free agents and thought “solid roster”. Not a single one. I don’t care what their GM and Team President says. Sure, the Knicks have been competitive and scrappy, but the losses are going to keep coming because this roster is flawed. There’s a good chance this game is over midway through the second quarter.
Time: 6 PM ET
Arena: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI
Channel: FSWIS, MSG
Knicks: Reggie Bullock (O), Marcus Morris (O), Frank Ntilikina (Q), Elfrid Payton (O)
Bucks: Thanasis Antetokounmpo (Q), Sterling Brown (Q), Brook Lopez (Q)
New York Knicks Starting Lineup
The New York Knicks come into this matchup for the second game of a back-to-back. They lost 113-104 to the Boston Celtics on Sunday afternoon, a game that had 15 lead changes. To the Knicks credit, they have played with a lot of effort and usually end up losing due to the opposition being more talented or because of fourth-quarter mishaps. The fourth quarter mishap this game? Allowing a 17-2 after leading 93-87 late in the game.
Julius Randle had 26 points five rebounds and attempted 13 free-throws. Dennis Smith Jr. added 17 and rookie RJ Barrett scored 16 points, but he struggled shooting the ball, going 4-for-13 from the field.
The Knicks only had 14 turnovers in the game–not a terrible number–but when they turned the ball over was the problem.
“Tonight it was turnovers. Our turnovers sparked them,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “We had four straight turnovers and they capitalized on every one of them. When you have a lead, you gotta get shots on goal.”
The Knicks, as is tradition, are at the bottom of the league in several important categories. They are 29th in points per game, 28th in offensive rating, and 22nd in defensive rating. They shoot 42.8 percent from the field (28th), 67.5 percent from the free-throw line (30th), and only average 20 assists per game (29th). All of these numbers contribute to their terrible offense, and none of these issues are going to be resolved this season.
But it’s not all bad for the Knicks and their fans. I’m a fan of their young core: Barret, Kevin Knox, and Micthell Robinson. Those three guys have a real chance to be special together. The problem is, they play for the Knicks, so their chances of realizing their potential are doubtful.
Milwaukee Bucks Starting Lineup
The Bucks haven’t missed a beat, in large part to Giannis. They were last seen in action on Saturday night when they faced off against the Charlotte Hornets and won 137-96. The Bucks led by as many as 44, recorded 41 assists, shot 56.2 percent from the field and hit 20 of their 44 3s. They held the Hornets to 36.6 percent shooting from the field and looked dominate from start to finish.
Antetokounmpo played only 20 minutes and scored 26 points to go along with nine rebounds. The Bucks won their 11th straight game and finished November with a franchise-best 15-1 record.
The Bucks lost Brogdon over the summer in a “non-move” I think will come back to haunt them in the playoffs, and maybe even into upcoming seasons. Brogdon, not Middleton, was the Bucks second-best player oftentimes last season, and he’s flourishing in Indiana with more opportunities. But to hell with what I think because Giannis has unlocked another level to his greatness and because of it the Bucks are poised to run through the East for a second straight regular season.
Milwaukee is second in the league in points per game at 120.2, they are third in offensive rating, fourth in defensive rating and first in pace.
Guys like Donte DiVincenzo, Pat Connaughton, and Sterling Brown have filled the void left by Brogdon from a production standpoint. All three guys fit in perfectly alongside Giannis with their abilities to stretch the floor, make the extra pass and attack closeouts. I personally don’t trust either guy to step up for this team come playoff time, but for a game against the Knicks in December these guys are fine.
Key Player Matchups
Giannis Antetounkoumpo vs. Julius Randle
The only “option” the Knicks have to deal with Giannis (Marcus Morris) is sidelined with a neck injury. Even then, good luck. For this matchup I expect the burly Randle to draw the bulk of the defensive attention on Giannis. Despite his strength and agile feet, Randle has never been good on defense, and the Buck’s superstar doesn’t take it easy on anyone. If the rest of the Knicks don’t help Randle out, this is going to be a bloodbath.
Brook Lopez vs. Mitchell Robinson
If Robinson can stay out of foul trouble (stop trying to block everything!) and log close to 30 minutes tonight then I like this matchup. Brook Lopez has regressed on offense this season–he’s shooting 28.9 percent from the 3-point line–but he’s still defending at a high level, averaging 2.4 blocks per game. Lopez has earned a reputation as a knockdown shooter from 3 so even with his early-season slump, defenses aren’t going to just leave him open. Robinson is a very eager shot-blocker, who can be easily manipulated into fouling on the perimeter. Lopez should see just how many fouls he can draw beyond the arc on the Knick’s young big man.
Giannis is always a safe bet to put up a monster stat line. He’s consistently a top-three producer by fantasy standards. For tonight’s matchup with the Knicks, the Greek Freak is going for a salary of $12.2k with his fantasy projections set for 51. his teammate Middleton, who is starting to get his rhythm back after missing time with a thigh injury is available for $6.4k on FanDuel with his points projected at 29.2.
The Knicks have two guys projected to post more than 25 fantasy points for tonight’s game. Randle is going for a salary of $7.5k and projected for 28.9 fantasy points. The rookie, Barrett has had a solid statistical season. Despite rookies being inconsistent their first year, Barrett leads the Knicks in minutes per game at 33.1, so he ends up posting counting stats one way or another. He’s going for $6.2k with fantasy projections set at 28.8.
Bet on Matchup
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