The New York Knicks are coming off consecutive losses, one a blow-out against the Indiana Pacers and a nail-biter Vs the Toronto Raptors. On Friday night, the Knicks were unable to stifle Toronto, despite a career-night from Obi Toppin, who finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Toppin’s transition game has become a catalyst for the Knicks’ offense, but his 19.6% 4-PT shooting this season has dragged his minutes down, despite Tom Thibodeau increasing his totals gradually in the month of December.
New York wonâ€™t have an easier time on Sunday afternoon against the Milwaukee Bucks, who currently stands 2nd in the Central Division and have one 11 of their last 13 games, including a victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday.
Milwaukee, of course, is led by perennial All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 27.6 points this year, including 11.8 rebounds, 53.4% shooting from the field, and about 30% shooting from three-point range. Giannis is not only a prolific scorer, but he is a monster in the paint and is averaging 5.7 assists per game, showcasing his facilitation.
For the Knicks, stopping Giannis is simply impossible, but if they can take away Milwaukeeâ€™s alternative playmakers, they can give themselves a chance at victory. However, that is easier said than done, as the Bucks have gained Khris Middleton back after a bout with COVID-19, who is averaging 18.2 points and 5.1 assist the season. In addition, role players Bobby Portis and Jrue Holliday have also displayed efficiency.
Portis is a solid 3-and-D role player, averaging 15.4 points this season with 40.6% shooting from deep and 9.0 rebounds per game. He fills their center spot, but as a modern-day big man, heâ€™s also capable of shooting efficiently. The Knicks severely lack a scoring Center, which is why they have been connected to Pacers star big man Myles Turner in recent days.
For the Knicks to stifle Milwaukee, they will need impeccable defense from Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. Tom Thibodeau’s squad currently ranks 24th in defensive rating at 110.2. If they maintain that same success rate against the Bucks, they will have no chance of picking up their first win three games.
Stellar perimeter defense is a necessity for New York, but they will need more from point guard Alec Burks, who had an awful night against Toronto, finishing with one point on 0 for 7 shooting. Expect to see heavy doses of Toppin and Immanuel Quickley, who both played 24 minutes in the close loss to the Raptors.
A more productive game for Randle should be in store since he hasnâ€™t reached 20 points in three consecutive games. After posting at 40% clip from three-point range last season, Randle has regressed to 33% but hasnâ€™t leaned on his shooting lately, rather playing isolation ball. His one-man approach and turnover totals have severely hurt the efficiency and communication of the starting five.