The Knicks will face an epic challenge this week from a re-stocked Eastern Conference contender ... and it won't come in this game. Before they travel to Chicago for another Knicks-Bulls BYOBK* Party, they must first take on the Milwaukee Bucks under the shadow of the MSG Skybridge.
* BYOBK = Bring Your Own Brass Knuckles
New York has been pegged by most experts as the kind of team that should handle the Bucks and get waxed by the Bulls, and before we in Knicks Knation can feign outrage at the latter, the Knicks must take care of the former.
So who are the 2013-14 Milwaukee Bucks? They are a franchise who have incurred my wrath by hiring Larry Drew as head coach instead of my personal choice, the Pride of Milwaukee, Latrell Sprewell. Surely the basketball gods will punish them for their blasphemy, but this team could still prove challenging nonetheless.
This year's Bucks team will look a lot different than the squad the Knicks swept in 2012-13. Gone is the volatile Monta Ellis/Brandon Jennings backcourt. That means fewer players who can score in isolation. It would seem that O.J. Mayo and perhaps Gary Neal are the only two current Bucks who can score off the dribble. Also, the Bucks lack a reliable post threat up front.
What the Bucks do have in abundance are quality spot-up shooters. The professorial bros over at BrewHoop have put together a thorough and convincing argument that, for the Bucks' offense to succeed, they'll have to shoot a healthy number of threes.
You know what that means, Knicks fans...
There is a line, you see ... it cuts a "U" shape somewhere between the halfcourt boundary and the key. It's a special, magical line, and shots coming from beyond that magical line are worth 50-percent more points.
And the Knicks are none too fond of guarding said line.
They didn't guard the three-point line last season -- regular or post. And they didn't guard the line last week in Green Bay against this very same Bucks team, allowing Milwaukee to shoot a ghastly 10-for-16 from downtown. Before you cry "PRESEASON!", remember that this has been a constant weakness for the Knicks last year, and that 15 of those 16 threes were shot by Bucks regulars (Mayo, Neal, Luke Ridnour and Caron Butler. This could be a very real problem in the season-opener.
Coach Mike Woodson has an opportunity here. He's gone on the record this preseason as saying he hopes to see the Knicks' D employ less of the double-teams which often (usually?) lead to wide-open threes. Well, if he is going to test out that strategy, he might as well test it out on the Bucks. Larry Sanders is a beast on defense, but he is not the kind of player you need to double on offense. Power forward Khris Middleton is ... ummm ... a guy who spells Chris with a "K". There are probably some other Milwaukee bigs who exist, but who shouldn't be doubled either.
If the Knicks can keep the Bucks off the three-point line they should win this game fairly easily, and with Metta World Peace joining Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni, they have the kind of players to get that job done. It's now up to Woodson to can last year's over-complicated and self-defeating defensive schemes and just K.I.S.S. Let's see some straight-up D this week at the Garden.