Wednesday, November 28, 2012
W2W4: Knicks vs. Bucks
By Jared Zwerling
The Knicks are in Milwaukee on Wednesday night to take on the Bucks, looking to get back on the winning track. But they'll have to do it without Jason Kidd (back spasms), who didn't travel with the team. Here's what to watch for, starting at 8 p.m. ET:
MOVE THE BALL: While the Knicks' defense held the Nets to 40.7 percent shooting, they suffered offensively without Kidd. After the Knicks finished the first half with 10 assists, they had only four in the second. And for the game, they made 33 shots on only 14 assists. The Nets, with All-Star Deron Williams, made 37 shots on 23 assists. In addition, the Knicks hit only six 3-pointers; Kidd is averaging 1.8 makes per game at 50 percent accuracy.
LET'S GO, PICK-AND-ROLL: Keep in mind that the Bucks hold opponents to an NBA-best 16.7 3-point attempts per game. That's a credit to their super-quick backcourt featuring Brandon Jennings -- the league's steals leader at 3.2 per game -- and Monta Ellis (1.2). So Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler and Rasheed Wallace need to bring their pick-and-roll A-game tonight -- which they didn't do against the Nets -- to create points, open lanes and provide adequate spacing for shooters.
DEFENSIVE TACTICS: As for defending the Bucks' backcourt, the Knicks need to force Jennings left -- he prefers to go right, even though he's a southpaw -- and try to take away his two favorite moves: a Steve Nash-like floater and a step-back jumper from the baseline corner. With Ellis, the Knicks simply need to keep him out of the paint. He is shooting 62.9 percent at the rim, but every distance away, his percentages decrease from 50.0 (3-9 feet) to 36.0 (10-15 feet) to 34.0 (16-23 feet).
ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK: Offensively, the Knicks need to punish the Bucks' big men, who are the second main reason they stay in games. Milwaukee has plenty of them -- Samuel Dalembert, John Henson, Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh -- who account for 44.2 points in the paint per game (eighth-best in the league). In fact, their taller bench helps account for 42.1 points per game (second-best). Coach Scott Skiles has a Mike Woodson-like "demanding accountability" approach, and his guys get after it defensively (their 7.3 blocks per game rank third).
"Coach Skiles is tough," Jennings told ESPNNewYork.com recently. "He's been my only coach in the NBA, so I'm used to it. His rules are a little different at times. At the end of the day, he just wants you to play hard defense, and you can't fault him for that."
BENCH BOOST: While Carmelo Anthony should regain his first-quarter and overall shooting touch -- his defensive matchup will likely be Tobias Harris -- the Knicks' second unit has to step up. On Monday night, they scored only 13 points -- their lowest mark of the season by 15 points. J.R. Smith had a season-low five points.