The New York Knicks (22-18) are rolling right now, entering Monday, coming off four consecutive victories and looking to make it five straight when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks (25-14) at home.
Despite the Bucks coming into this game in third place in the Eastern Conference standings, they have been struggling of late, having lost six of their last 10 games, with their last game being an embarrassing 29-point loss against the lowly Charlotte Hornets, a game in which superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo scored just nine points.
The Knicks, on the other hand, have turned the corner once again. After losing five consecutive games, they have won four straight all without RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin. They are 12-5 since December 4th, which is tied for the third-best record in the NBA over that span. The Bucks are just 9-8 in that span.
Both teams are expected to be missing very crucial pieces, with RJ Barrett (lacerated finger) of the Knicks listed as doubtful to play and Bucks’ Khris Middleton (knee) listed as out. The Knicks are 4-1 without Barrett this season, while the Bucks are 21-11 without Middleton – but are just 3-6 in their last nine games without him.
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The Knicks know what they need to do against the Bucks:
The key for the Knicks to gain a win over a powerhouse Eastern Conference team is a straightforward one: stop Jrue Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Those two will certainly be the go-to guys when it comes to scoring for Milwaukee, especially since they will be without Middleton. To handle Giannis, the Knicks will not block off driving lanes to the paint and should utilize the sizes of both Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson to create a wall in front of the basket.
For Holiday, having Immanuel Quickley or Quentin Grimes guard him for most of the possessions will be the key. The Knicks have a luxury with having two excellent perimeter defenders playing alongside each other, as they will make it much more difficult for Milwaukee to get a favorable mismatch, given their high intensity on the defensive side of the floor.
This is a big game for the Knicks, as a win against Milwaukee will put them in great position to make some serious noise in the Eastern Conference. After Monday, six of the Knicks’ next seven games will be against teams currently below .500. They must take advantage of that favorable schedule ahead, and a win against a title contender would be a great start.
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