Uneasy is the head that wears the crown. Winning a second championship is hard—and even harder without key players, as the 5-6 Milwaukee Bucks are learning.
Yesterday, the 2020 World Champion Bucks won 118-109 against the same Philadelphia squad that the Knicks beat on Monday. The short-handed Stags lost to New York last Friday. Tonight, they lock horns again at Madison Square Garden.
Will the depleted Bucks find retribution? Will the Knicks play to the level of their opponent, or to their potential? Tune in for a 7:30 tip-off, friends.
WHEN LAST THEY MET
Last week, the Knicks won 113-98 in Milwaukee. Due to injuries, the Bucks started a line-up of the Antetokounmpo Bros, Pat Connaughton, Grayson Allen, and George Hill. Giannis led the herd with 25 points, and Allen contributed 22. The Brewin’ Ballers could not get it done without Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, however.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN MILWAUKEE?
The banged-up Bucks are amidst a victory lap, with a celebratory stop at the White House. Their grueling win against the Sixers spared them a three-game losing skid. Thus far, no one would confuse Milwaukee with dynastic teams of yore (see: Bulls, Lakers, etc.), even if their two-time MVP, the Greekus Freakus, plays like a god among the rabble.
Jrue is my favorite Holiday brother. I’d dig him even more if he was a Knick. A person of great character, Jrue is a keen-eyed passer who rebounds, steals, blocks, and dunks. In only four games, he’s taking 4.5 threes and shooting 44% from beyond the arc, which are career-best numbers if sustainable. He’s averaging 13 ppg, which is a drop, but that will increase over the season.
In Friday’s contest with the Bucks, Kemba Walker finished 5/1/1 in 15 minutes. Surely, he’d love redemption tonight, but Jrue is a formidable foe. A strong showing would be a welcome surprise.
SG Grayson Allen was once voted Most likely to play a Harry Potter villain…or should have been. The speedy guard is averaging 14.5 per game. He can get at it defensively, grabbing a steal or two per game. Evan Fournier should bend the Duke product over his knee and spank off the smugness. (Reportedly, Grayson’s an affable dude off-court, so said paddling is only permissible on the hardwood.)
SF Pat Connaughton is scoring 10 a game and grabbing five rebounds. A tough defender, he should mix it up with RJ Barrett tonight. Recently, RJ had a five game streak of 20+ points, but faltered in the last two games. Pat can be a pest, but let’s hope RJ gets his groove back in this one.
Giannis…yeah, Giannis. Yesterday, he carried the team on his back with 31 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and one foul in 36 minutes. Pray that he’s exhausted from that performance and try to keep his stat line under 30/10/5, Knickerbockers.
Bobby Portis will likely start at the five with Lopez out. His passionate play is beloved in Brew City, and he was likeable enough as a Knick. Bobby netted 19 points and 10 rebounds last night. With Mitchell Robinson (hip flexor) and Nerlens Noel (knee) both questionable, expect Taj Gibson to start at center for New York. Maybe we’ll see some Wall of Jericho?
Despite their staffing shortage, these Bucks can still heat up. They scored 63 in the first half on Friday against the Knicks. New York tightened the screws at intermission and thereafter limited the Bucks to 35 points. The Knicks will need another inspired defensive effort to corral Giannis and the Freakazoids.
Expect New York to tease us for three quarters and finally get their freak on in the fourth.
MSG. Wednesday, 7:30 PM. Ας πάμε Knicks!