Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Knicks at Milwaukee Bucks

Perhaps the most important game of the Knicks season will be played tonight in Milwaukee at 8. The Knicks are clinging to a one-game lead over the Bucks for the eighth and final seed in the playoffs.

Both teams are coming off of losses - the Knicks to the Chicago Bulls last night, the Bucks to the Oklahoma City Thunder Monday night. Of course both teams recognize the importance of this game as it not only affects playoff seeding, but it also determines the season series. If the Bucks win, they'll take the season series and thus be awarded a playoff spot should they finish with the same record as the Knicks.

It's been called a "must-win", a "game 7" by members of the Knicks, so let's take the jump for some notes on what to watch for tonight!

  • It's one thing to call a game a must-win, it's another to play like it is. The Knicks have said that earlier in the season and not followed through. This time it's the real deal and a loss tonight realistically pushes the Knicks out of a playoff spot with a much tougher remaining schedule than the Bucks. That means every player on every possession on every play has to be giving their all tonight. Diving for loose balls, playing tough defense, executing on offense, attacking the glass, running back on both sides, etc. Carmelo Anthony is known to step up his game in these moments, but the rest of the Knicks need to as well.

  • I'm looking at Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Brandon Jennings! Those guys love nothing more than playing like All-Stars against the Knicks and with the importance tonight bears, than don't expect anything less. Jennings is streaky, but when he's hot, he's as dynamic as anyone in the league. Dunleavy isn't that good, so the Knicks just need to pay attention to him and not let him go off. However, guys like Monta Ellis and Ersan Ilyasova can do plenty of damage as well. In short: pay attention of defense.

  • The Bucks are not a great defensive team, but the Knicks are not a great offensive team. They've proven to be a lot more potent in the fast break, however, so the Knicks should look to push every chance they get. Whether they'll follow through with this is a different story. Woodson is known to play slowly, Melo is more of a half-court guy, and Baron Davis is hobbled. But regardless, if the Knicks push off of misses and turnovers, they'll find some easy buckets against a less-than-stellar Bucks defense.  

  • Steve Novak, the Knicks primary weapon from downtown, is in a two-game shooting slump, a combined 0-9 in the past two games. If he can find the range and open up the offense, it will really help, but other guys need to help too. J.R. Smith needs to focus more on catch-and-shoots, Iman Shumpert and Baron are reliable when given room, and Melo has been in a groove lately. The 3-pointer opens up the offense for drivers and can be a crippling shot to opponents. If the Knicks can at least get to 33% from beyond the arc (something they haven't achieved in the past two games), they'll give themselves a good chance to win the offensive battle.

Tonight is huge, guys. That's all I have to say. I might throw up during the game. Or now. Kidding. But really.

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