Bucks @ Knicks: MSG 730pm
The Knicks continue their home stand at the Garden against two of the most explosive guards in the league, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, as well as the rest of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks are currently seeded 7th in the East and since new coach Jim Boylan has taken over the Bucks have opened up the offense. They are pretty strong on the glass ranking as the 7th best rebounding team in the NBA and they have strong interior defense with league shot blocker Larry Sanders averaging over 3 blocks per game. They have the 7th ranked defense in the league as well. Bottom line, this is another home game versus a possible playoff opponent.
We all know how much Brandon Jennings loves playing in New York, but we also know how deadly Mike Dunleavy can be. Dunleavy is shooting 60% from downtown over the past eight games. In three games last year against the Knicks, he averaged 23 points, shot 49% from three, and 56% from the field. Ersan Ilyasova is starting to get hot for the Bucks. Over the last five games, he’s shooting 62% beyond the arc. Monta Ellis is shooting just 25% from downtown and 40% overall, but he is a very talented slasher who can get hot at any time, so once again it’s going to come down to the Knicks perimeter defense and proper rotations. Add to the fact that it’s a Friday night game and the possible Robert Randolph curse lurks, and I’m getting a little nervous.
The Knicks perimeter defense has been atrocious. Would you like to guess Raymond Felton’s defensive rating versus Atlanta or how about his rating against the Magic? It was 127 against the Hawks and 156 against Orlando! I’ve never seen a defensive rating so high. This has to do with Tyson Chandler not being able to help as much, since he’s the only interior defensive presence the Knicks have, plus with the fact that Felton’s defensive rating is 109 for his career. It also looks like the Knicks propensity for switching is not so much Woodson’s philosophy but has more to do with the Knicks laziness. Coach Woodson said at practice yesterday, “we need to get back to having pride for guarding our man with the ball.” This sounds like the Knicks are yelling switch on everything as opposed to fighting through. The Knicks did a much better job of fighting through picks and it was a major reason for their success against Nelson and Redick in the second half on Wednesday.
With all those defensive issues in mind, the Knicks are just a game and a half behind Miami. The Knicks were literally one lucky buzzer beater three in Sacramento away and one lackluster performance in Philly away from being the number one team in the East today.
The Nets have a tough schedule ahead and they sit 2.5 games back. The Knicks must take advantage of this home stand tonight, tomorrow against the Kings and Detroit on Monday to build back a cushion before the All-Star break. I really believe the Knicks feel the urgency and will come out focused defensively tonight. If you see a lot of switches early it could be a long night for our Knicks, but the first quarter will be key. GO NEW YORK!