Knicks vs. Bucks 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 1050 AM
New York: Faced with their first loss in the Mike Woodson era, the Knicks responded in impressive fashion on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. The team held Detroit to only 79 points, improved to 24-25 on the season, and captured its sixth win in its last seven games. Following the game, the media caught a glimpse of images of the Larry O’Brien trophy above each of the Knicks lockers. Tyson Chandler told reporters that the squad is focused on one goal and the image is a daily reminder of the ultimate prize. New York holds the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference standings, two games behind Boston and 3.5 games away from the Sixers for the division lead. On the injury front, Jared Jeffries is sidelined for the next weeks with a sore knee and luckily for the Knicks, Amar’e Stoudemire is ready to go for Monday’s game against Milwaukee. Stoudemire was dealing with tightness in his back during the blowout win on Saturday. The big man said the training staff will monitor his back but the setback is not the same injury as he suffered last year and he does not seem concerned.
Milwaukee: A Bucks victory over the Knicks on March 9 jumpstarted a six-game winning streak before a loss to Boson 13 days later. Milwaukee bounced back by defeating Charlotte and fell to Indiana on Saturday night. Prior to the trade deadline, the Bucks made a surprising move by shipping Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson out of town for the prolific guard Monta Ellis. Milwaukee now features a deadly backcourt combination with Ellis at the 2-spot and Brandon Jennings orchestrating the offense from the point guard position. In five games in his new uniform, Ellis is averaging 13.8 points per game in 32.8 minutes of floor time. Ellis left Saturday’s game in the fourth quarter with an injured hand and his official status for Monday is unknown. Obviously, the Bucks hope to see a rise in Ellis’ production as they chase New York for a playoff berth. Milwaukee’s 22-26 overall record places them 2.5 games behind the Knicks for No.8 heading into the matchup on Monday night.
Last Time Out
New York: The Knicks cruised to a 101-79 past the Pistons on Saturday behind 15 points and 17 boards from Tyson Chandler.
Milwaukee: Indiana posted 88 second half points in a 125-104 win over the Bucks on Saturday. The loss dropped Milwaukee’s home record to just 11-11 on the season.
The Numbers Game
The Knicks are 15-1 when they hold their opponent under 90 points. Over the last seven games under Woodson, New York is only allowing 86.9 points per outing.
Match-up to Watch
Jeremy Lin vs. Brandon Jennings
Jennings is both streaky and unpredictable. The left-hander will go through offensive droughts and suddenly explosive for double digit points in a quarter. Without a large sample size, it’s hard to determine the effect of Ellis next to Jennings in the starting lineup. One thing is for sure, Jennings has enjoyed offensive success against the Knicks by averaging 30.5 points behind 54.5 percent shooting n the two meetings. Additionally, the point guard has dished out an average of 7.5 assists in leading the Bucks to two wins over New York. Jeremy Lin will be counted on to cut off driving lanes for Jennings and stay tight on his deadly step-back jumper. On the opposite side, Lin must attack Jennings, making him spend energy on the defensive side of the floor. Lin posted 20 points and 13 assists in the last meeting against Milwaukee in early March.
What to Look For
The Knicks understand and are embracing the enormity of Monday’s game against Milwaukee. While New York owns a lead on the visiting team in the standings, the Bucks have a crucial 2-0 series lead, which could affect the tiebreaker at the conclusion of the season. On Saturday night, several of the Knicks described their level of focus and attention heading into the matchup. Specifically, Carmelo Anthony explained, ““That is a real big game for us. Going up against them, fighting for that eighth spot. The way we have been playing…we want to continue to keep playing. We need that game. We are going to be doing everything in our power to get that game.“
Ellis and Jennings are two players that will draw a ton of attention but watch for the underrated impact of Ersan Illyasova. The Bucks power forward hit a key bucket in the home win for Milwaukee in the last meeting and he is averaging 19 points per game on 62.9 percent shooting over the previous 10 games. At 6-10, 235 pounds, Illyasova is a difficult defensive assignment for Stoudemire.