Knicks vs. Bucks 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 1050 AM
As the Knicks reconvened at Madison Square Garden Training Center on Thursday for a practice session, Carmelo Anthony was absent. New York’s leading scorer was excused from practice due to a family issues and head coach Mike D’Antoni confirmed that he will be available for the contest against Milwaukee. At 6-8, the Knicks are searching for improvement to reverse a four-game slide with two more outings at the Garden before a lengthy road trip that begins on Tuesday.
In an attempt to inject offensive life into their roster, the Bucks acquired Stephen Jackson and Mike Dunleavy for the 2011-12 season. The goal was to help a squad that struggled to score, only managing 91.9 points per game last year despite a point guard that can light up the scoreboard. Milwaukee also dealt with a myriad of injuries to its star players, which led to a disappointing 35-47 season. The 4-9 Bucks enter Thursday’s game without a road victory and are in the midst of a brutal stretch of games. Starting on January 13, Milwaukee played Dallas, Philadelphia, and Denver. After facing the Knicks on Friday night, the Bucks face Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, and the Lakers over the next eight days.
Last Time Out
The Knicks fought hard down the stretch but came up short on Wednesday in a 91-88 loss to the Suns. Amar’e Stoudemire scored 23 points and Tyson Chandler snagged 17 boards for New York in the defeat.
Brandon Jennings dropped 30 points but Milwaukee could not overcome a 19-point halftime deficit. The Bucks committed 19 turnovers in the 105-95 Wednesday night loss.
The Numbers Game
Iman Shumpert is second in the league in steals per game (2.5). The rookie is in impressive company, only trailing All-Star point guard Chris Paul (2.8).
Match-up to Watch
Landry Fields vs. Stephen Jackson
In all four of the Bucks victories, veteran guard Stephen Jackson has played a major role by averaging 20.5 points per game. Jackson is a savvy veteran with the ability to explode on any given night. His length and perimeter shooting skills will test Landry Fields on the defensive side of the floor. At 6-7, Fields matches up well with Jackson and his productivity will be essential, fresh off a 17-point performance on Wednesday night.
What to Look For
Without a road win and a lack of offensive consistency, the Bucks are an opponent the Knicks should be able to handle at the Garden. Jennings, Jackson, and Andrew Bogut present a host of problems but New York should feel the urgency to record a much-needed home win. From a defensive and rebounding standpoint, the Knicks have greatly improved from a season ago. The next step is to find the offensive rhythm and ball movement that allows All-Stars Anthony and Stoudemire to dominate the game. D’Antoni believes the team must reach the century mark and return to an up-tempo style in order to snap the skid and jump back on the right track before the showdown against Denver on Saturday.