The Knicks have hovered around mediocrity all season as they have never been more than two games over or under .500. Coming off of a huge feel-good blowout win against a Pistons team missing it’s two young back court stars, they’ll once again look to get back to .500 at home against a 14-5 Milwaukee Bucks team that has won its last two games.
Jrue Holiday (6’3”, 205 lb.), who is currently averaging 17.7 PPG, 6.1 APG, and 4.5 RPG with a career-high 50.3% field goal percentage, will get the start as usual for the Bucks. He’ll be sure to guard Jalen Brunson, who has been on a tear as of late, averaging 27.8 PPG and 6 APG on an efficient 53.8% shooting percentage over his last five games. Going up against the lockdown defensive stalwart that is Jrue Holiday is never an enviable task, and Brunson can attest to that as he only managed 13 points on 3-10 shooting from the field when these two teams met earlier in the year. Keep an eye on this as it should be a very crucial matchup.
Jevon Carter (6’1”, 200lb.) is in the midst of enjoying a new role as the Bucks starter with Khris Middleton out and Bobby Portis becoming a bench player. He is having a nice season averaging a career-high 9.4 PPG, 3.5 APG, 2.1 RPG and 1.5 SPG in 27.2 MPG. The Knicks, even with Cam Reddish back from a short injury stint, will most likely continue to deploy sophomore guard Quentin Grimes as their starting shooting guard. Ever since being reinserted into the rotation, Grimes had been playing very good basketball. He was amazing defensively as usual (go watch his defense on Ja Morant), and he showcased his much improved playmaking skills as well (4 APG in 29.9 MPG over his last five games). Oddly enough, his shooting, which many considered his greatest skill coming into the league, had been off. That was until last night, when he erupted for a season-high 16 points on 6-7 from the field and 3-4 from 3. Neither Carter nor Grimes are focal points of their team’s offense but they both provide some much needed outside shooting and do the little things and it should be fun to watch them impact the game in different ways.
Can’t navigate one of the toughest screen + roll combos in the league any better than this. And he really did it all night. pic.twitter.com/qAU0uOvdvZ— Rit Holtzman (@BenRitholtzNBA) November 28, 2022
The Bucks should once again trot out everybody’s least favorite college basketball player, Grayson Allen (6’4”, 198lb.). The former Duke Blue Devil (maybe he’ll be a Knick one day when they inevitably try to pair up Zion with Cam and RJ... oh and Trevor Keels) is averaging a career-high 11.2 PPG while shooting a career-high 45.6% from the field and 45% from 3. Allen will face off against the aforementioned RJ Barrett in a battle of Dukies. Barrett’s season couldn’t be more different than Allen’s. The Knicks wing is averaging 18.4 PPG (just 7.2 more than Allen) on 16.2 FGA per game (8.8 more than Allen) while shooting nearly 20% worst from 3 despite taking .9 more a game. If the Knicks want a shot at taking down one of the best teams in the league, they’ll need Barrett to win this matchup and do so convincingly.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (7’0”, 242lb.) somehow just keeps getting better. In his 10th season, the 28 year old former MVP is averaging a career-high 30.9 PPG while grabbing 11.4 RPG, dishing out 5.4 APG and also getting .9 SPG and 1 BPG. And the insane part is, he’s doing this while shooting just 22.9% from 3 and 60% from the line, which are both low even for him. If he were closer to his career averages of 28% from 3 and 71.8% from the line, he very possibly could have averaged close to 33 or even 34 PPG by now. Going up against what seems like the best player in the world on most nights will be Julius Randle, who is coming off of an efficient 36-point, 7-rebound, 5-assist performance last night. Randle is actually averaging an impressive 29.3 PPG and 10.3 RPG in the three instances he’s played on the second half of a back-to-back this season. That being said, he’ll have his hands full against a very good player and very good team, one that he struggled against earlier this season, when he scored just 14 points on 3-10 shooting from the field.
Not quite a Knicks legend, but cross-town rival Nets legend, Brook Lopez (7’0”, 282lb.) will be the starting center for the Bucks. After being injured for the majority of the season last year, Lopez has come back strong, having his best season since his 16-17 campaign, his last one in Brooklyn. The knockdown shooter is averaging 15.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and a league-leading and career-high 2.9 BPG while shooting a career-high 41.1% from 3. Trying to contain the stretch five, will be Mitchell Robinson, who was recently reinserted into the starting lineup. Robinson is having a solid season averaging 7 PPG and 6.5 RPG while swatting 2.2 shots per game.
The Knicks have teased fans all season long by beating down on bad teams and then staying within striking distance of some good teams. But they’ve yet to figure out how to beat good teams consistently. Tonight should be more of the same. Milwaukee, along with Giannis, hasn’t gotten as much attention as they probably deserved, most likely due to the overall fatigue surrounding just how good they’ve been over the last few years. Regardless of the media attention, or lack thereof, the Knicks will have an incredibly difficult task as the Bucks provide a very difficult matchup for them.
They have one of, if not, the best perimeter defenders in the league in Jrue Holiday, who should make life very difficult for Brunson. They have a lot of rim protection to stop Randle and Barrett, with Antetokounmpo and Lopez manning the paint. And they have some incredibly lethal and efficient outside shooter in Carter, Allen and Lopez, who is the type of stretch five the Knicks so often have troubles dealing with. This could be a game where Brunson, despite his hot play as of late, struggles against the size and length of the Bucks, and the scoring ultimately has to come down to Randle and Barrett, who most likely will be forced to make outside shots. The Knicks could have an advantage on the bench as the Bucks aren’t particularly deep but that advantage most likely won’t be big enough to overcome Giannis and crew.
The Knicks will get off to a slow start and go down early but the bench will bring them back before half time, only to have the starters lose the game in the third quarter. Knicks fall to the Bucks in a classic Knicks kind of way 120-102.