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Preview of the Knicks’ upcoming week, Dec. 3-9

One game on the schedule, but more to come if they win Tuesday’s IST Knockout game

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New York Knicks v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The New York Knicks (12-7) have one game on their schedule this week, but could play more depending on their IST results. A Tuesday win would send New York to a neutral-site for a Semifinal game on Thursday. The Championship game will be held in Las Vegas on Saturday. None of this is convenient for your loyal servant-scribe, who will be on ‘vacation’ from Wednesday to Wednesday, and whose wife will not appreciate the Knicker-interruptions. But as my cousin used to say, “Marriage is for life, Knicks are forever!” He was thrice divorced and had irrational expectations of Allonzo Trier . . . thus, perhaps not a reliable font of wisdom.

T.S. Eliot called April the ‘cruellest’ month, but for the Knicks, that distinction might go to December. About their upcoming schedule, John Schuhmann wrote: “The Knicks have both the league’s toughest December schedule in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage (.571) and its most road-heavy December schedule, with only three of their 14 games at Madison Square Garden.”

Bah! Just for fun, let’s play the Milwaukee Bucks!

[Editor’s Note: Steve Popper reports in Newsday, “A loss to the Bucks would mean either a trip to Boston if the Celtics lose to Indiana or a home game if the Pacers lose.”]

Knicks at Bucks, December 5, 2023, 7:30 PM EST

Fred Katz at The Athletic wrote about the Knicks’ confusion about the IST. Some players thought the IST Quarterfinal game would be held in Las Vegas, so imagine their surprise after they beat the Charlotte Hornets and punched their ticket to . . . Milwaukee, land of Bucks.

Nonetheless, Immanuel Quickley and the crew remain jazzed about the NBA Cup. The stakes? Varying bonuses and, if they win the whole shebang, a big prize of half a million dollars.

Advancing means a chance for more money, but it won’t come easy. The Knicks will have to play an extra game against the Bucks, which isn’t a walk in Central Park; and the tournament messes with the Knicks’ schedule: extended road trips, potential exhaustion, etc. Despite any mixed feelings, the tournament winnings will certainly benefit the lesser-paid players who would appreciate the extra $500K in their paycheck (e.g., Immanuel Quickley will earn $4M this year; Quentin Grimes $2.3M).

As for the Bucks. . . . Under the triumvirate leadership of new coach Adrian Griffin, Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 4.7 APG), and Damian Lillard (25.5 PPG, 6.8 APG, and 4.5 RPG), the Battling Bratwursts are playing as well as expected after trading away the tenacious Jrue Holiday. They have a top-five offense, but a bottom-third defense, which evens out at an 11th-best Net Rating. As of this writing, they hold a 13-6 record and were most recently beaten by a Chicago Bulls team that lacked DeRozan and LaVine. Go figure.

The Cheese Machine posts a lot of points (120.5 per game) and are virtually the same as New York for three-point percentage. Statistically, the Knicks have the edge on the glass, and have an offensive rebound percentage of 34% to the Bucks’ 26%. Then again, the Bucks make about half their shots, so maybe they just have fewer O-Board opportunities?

New York dropped all three games against Milwaukee last season, and also their first matchup on the current campaign. In November’s game, Jalen Brunson scored 45 points, but awful team shooting (40%, 26%, 76%) doomed the Knicks to a loss, 110-105. New York dominated the glass (56 rebounds to 41), and Mitchell Robinson, Julius Randle, and Josh Hart all grabbed double-digit boards.

Tuesday will be the second of five meetings between the clubs this season. My imaginary money is on New York rising to the occasion this time, shooting much better than before, and ultimately punching their ticket to [neutral site] on Thursday against [whomever].

Enjoy your weekend. Go Knicks!