By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Heat | BMO Harris Bradley Center
When: Thursday | 8:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (19-28): The Knicks closed out an eight-game homestand with a loss to the Miami Heat on Saturday, going 4-4 overall. Considering the rough start, a 4-1 finish gives the team plenty to build on as they continue to fight for playoff positioning. Right now, they are a game behind Charlotte for the 8th spot and two games behind Brooklyn, who is currently in 7th. They've started to get key pieces back from injury, the latest being Amar'e Stoudemire, who returned on Saturday after missing the first seven games of the homestand with an ankle injury.
UPDATE: Kenyon Martin will not dress tonight because of a sore left ankle. Iman Shumpert (shoulder) will return and is in the starting lineup.
Milwaukee (8-39): Emphasis is squarely on the future in Milwaukee after years of mediocrity and fighting for lower playoff spots; the Bucks are 1-15 in their last 16 games and the favorites to finish the season with the highest draft lottery odds. The lost season has been an opportunity for Coach Larry Drew to play young players, however, and some of the results have been promising. Six-foot-10 Greek rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo just turned 19 in December and has been a revelation since being selected with the 15th pick in the draft. Point guard Nate Wolters leads all rookies (and ranks 4th in the entire NBA) with a 3.7 assist to turnover ratio and looks like a second-round steal out of South Dakota State. Second-year wing Khris Middleton is shooting 39.7 percent from three. So while the losses are mounting up, the cupboard is not bare.
UPDATE: O.J. Mayo (flu-like symptoms) and John Henson (wrist) are out for tonight's game.
The Numbers Game
Carmelo Anthony, ladies and gentlemen...
Carmelo Anthony's numbers during the #Knicks 8-game homestand: 32 pts, 9.4 reb, 3.3 ast, 10 FTA, Shot 49% from 3 on 6.4 attempts per game.— charlie widdoes (@charliewiddoes) February 3, 2014
Matchup to Watch
Carmelo Anthony vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Antetokounmpo made his first NBA start against the Knicks back on December 18th and he did an admirable job on Melo. By digging in and using his breathtaking length, he bothered Anthony into taking 29 shots for his 29 points. He spoke after the game about embracing the challenge of guarding a star like Anthony. Antetokounmpo still has to fill out to reach his considerable potential, and Melo is on quite a tear of late, but it will be interesting to see how this matchup plays out a few weeks after the original meeting that was more competitive than one may have expected.
What to Look For
After getting Kenyon Martin and Stoudemire back from ankle issues recently, there's a chance that Iman Shumpert returns to the floor tonight from a shoulder injury two games ago. In his absence, J.R. Smith stepped into the starting lineup and continued to shoot the ball well -- Smith shot just under 50 percent from three during the homestand, averaging 17 points per game. Tim Hardaway Jr. averaged 14 points per game during the homestand, shooting 55 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three. In the last meeting between these teams, the game went to double overtime before the Knicks ultimately prevailed.