Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New York Knicks vs. Milwaukee Bucks Pre-Game News and Notes April 11

Wednesday April 11, 2012 8:00 P.M. ET 
New York Knicks vs. Milwaukee Bucks 

The Knicks are right back at it tonight in what is their most important game of the season to date. The Bucks trail the Knicks by 1 game in the Eastern Conference playoff race and tonight will go a long way in deciding who actually will make the playoffs. The Bucks won 2 of the first 3 meetings between the teams this season, so this is as much of a must win regular season game as the Knicks will have all year. The schedule only gets more brutal after tonight as the Knicks have to play the Heat and Celtics in their next two games. As if they didn’t have enough pressure on them already, knowing the remaining schedule should add even more. 

-Who Steps up Tonight? 

The Knicks need someone to step up next to Carmelo Anthony. You know what you are going to get from Anthony, but there needs to be another option next to him for the Knicks to succeed. It is always tougher to win on the road, so taking some of the pressure off Anthony will be something the Knicks have to do if they want to come away with what will be a tough victory in a playoff atmosphere. 

The team defense has been a total team effort; they now just have to pull it together on offense. Fans get mesmerized watching Anthony play offense, and at times so do his teammates. "The guys that we need to be aggressive on the offensive end and take those shots, we need them to do that," he said after the Bulls game. "We were passing up open shots out there that guys should have taken. We can't pass that up.” 

-Can Knicks Control the Boards? 

The Bucks are a very physical team even playing a smaller lineup. The Knicks will need to stay poised in what will be a very hostile environment because they have to assume the Bucks will come out firing on all cylinders wanting to get into the playoffs. The Knicks need to show they want to be there also. 

Much like the Bulls team the Knicks played last night, the Bucks are very good on the offensive glass and scoring on second opportunities (the Bucks average 12.5 and 14.9, both ranked 5th in the league). Amar’e Stoudemire was out in the last match up as well, so the Knicks are capable of controlling the glass without their big man. They will be without him once again tonight and a team effort will be needed to pick up the slack. Some playing time for Josh Harrellson would go along way in cleaning the glass for the Knicks. 

-Can the Backcourt Keep Up? 

The Bucks had always lacked an explosive scorer to go along with Brandon Jennings. That is no longer a problem as they traded for scoring dynamo Monta Ellis at the trade deadline. It was hard enough for the Knicks to stop Brandon Jennings and now they have to figure out how to stop Monta Ellis as well. 

Iman Shumpert will play a big role in containing both Jennings and Ellis. Look for J.R. Smith and Jared Jeffries to also get opportunities in trying to stop the dynamic Bucks backcourt. 

-Close out Quarters 

The Knicks will need to do their best in ending quarters with strong finishes. They are successful when they are able to do so. This also coincides with not having long stretches in which they struggle to score. If the Knicks go on prolonged droughts of scoring like last night against the Bulls, it will be a struggle. They can not afford to fall down big in the game tonight like they did last night. 

One reason they have not been successful at the end of quarters is because the bench has not been playing up to par recently. Steve Novak is on the second longest drought of his career, missing his last 9 shot attempts, going 2 straight games without a 3 pointer. The Knicks rely on his 3 point shooting to give them a spark, and it has been missing recently. J.R. Smith also needs to find his shot more consistently. He has decent scoring outputs, but it’s because of the high volume of shots he takes. Efficient scoring for Smith would go a long way for the Knicks because he is capable of being that second option to Carmelo Anthony. 

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