- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Mike Woodson wants the Knicks to go 9-2 in their 11 games leading up to the All-Star break. So far, so good.
They are 3-1 with seven games to play before the break. On Friday night, They'll welcome in a Bucks team that's given them trouble at MSG of late. New York is just 2-6 in its last eight home games against Milwaukee.
Here are a few things to keep an eye on during the game:
JENNINGS’ MOTIVATION: Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings is having an All-Star type season, so he’d be a threat to the Knicks under normal circumstances. But there’s also this to consider: Jennings is always highly motivated against New York, which passed him over in the 2009 Draft. (The Knicks took Jordan Hill with the eighth pick. Milwaukee took Jennings with the 11th pick.)
It’s no surprise that Jennings is averaging 20.1 points against New York for his career, his highest mark against any team in the East.
If the Knicks’ recent perimeter defense is any indication, Jennings may have an easy time getting to 20 tonight.
Woodson’s club has struggled to contain guards in recent games, struggling against the pick and roll.
“"We were really good early in the season. Nobody was begging for help and it was beautiful to watch," Woodson said. "Somehow I’ve got to get us back to that.”
KIDD’S BACK: Jason Kidd expects to return from a one-game absence due to a strained lower back tonight against Milwaukee. Woodson said Kidd is going to start alongside Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler.
It will be interesting to see how the 39-year-old Kidd handles the matchup with one of Milwaukee’s guards -- either Jennings or Ellis. I'm curious to see Woodson’s defensive alignment tonight: will he use Shumpert on one of the Bucks’ guards? He should, in my opinion. But forcing Kidd to guard a small forward may be a tough matchup.
How Woodson uses Amar’e Stoudemire also bears watching. Stoudemire is coming off one of his most productive games of the season. He scored 14 points on 7-for-7 shooting in just 21 minutes on Wednesday. Will he play more than 21 minutes tonight?
MELO STREAK: Carmelo Anthony has scored at least 20 points in a franchise-record 30 straight games, breaking the previous mark of 29 set by Richie Guerin. Can he keep the streak going? Anthony had 29 points in three quarters in the Knicks’ win over the Bucks in late November.
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3hSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann