The anticipation around Jabari Parker’s return to the court after a second left knee reconstruction has been building for months. Tonight, the wait is over. Parker will be limited to 15 minutes in his return, but nobody cares about that, everyone is just glad to see the offensive powerhouse back on the floor.
Unfortunately for the Bucks, the night before his return could not have gone any worse. Blown out on the scoreboard 89-108, Milwaukee were never in the contest against Minnesota. Unfortunately that was the least of their concerns. Reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon finished a fast break dunk during the second quarter only to pull up immediately and sit down on the floor holding his knee. Brogdon was surrounded by team mates and medical staff, before being carried from the floor. The injury has been announced as a quad tendon strain, but leaving the arena in a supportive brace and on crutches is not a good sign. Brogdon and the Bucks will nervously await the results of scans in the coming days.
That wasn’t the last of the bad news for Milwaukee however as Giannis Antetokounmpo rolled his ankle with under 6 minutes left in the game. Bucks beat reporter Matt Velazquez reported that Giannis was unable to put much weight on his ankle after the game, and a major question mark will be hovering over his availability tonight against the Knicks. The controversy to arise out of the incident is why Giannis would be put back in the game with the Bucks down by 23 points with only nine minutes remaining.
Unfortunately Eric Bledsoe also reamins in doubt to suit up with his ankle issue that kept him out of the Minnesota contest. For a Milwaukee team that simply has not been able to get all its men out on the court together, it was a disastrous night on the eve of such an exciting occasion.
Despite the eventful night, the Bucks who are available must quickly recover to face a Knicks team that will be looking to rebound off a 30 point beatdown at the hands of the Boston Celtics. An embarrassing 8 point final quarter sunk the Knicks, who were only trailing the Kyrie Irving-less Celtics by 5 points at halftime. Kristaps Porzingis struggled to finish 7-18 from the field just one game after torching the Brooklyn Nets for 28 points, on 6-8 from beyond the arc. The last quarter meltdown put an end to a two game winning streak against Brooklyn and Phoenix, and leaves the Knicks three games out of the last playoff spot in the East.
This is the first of four meetings between the two teams this season. Milwaukee will visit Madison Square Garden next Tuesday night,meaning both teams will be desperate to land the first blow. It’s set to be a celebratory mood tonight at the Bradley Center for the completion of another gruelling twelve month rehab process for Parker. The crowd will be raucous, the players that are available will be excited, and we all will be anticipating the first of hopefully many buckets ahead for the remainder of this season and beyond.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Don’t Lose Focus: We know all the attention in the lead up and during the first quarter will be around Jabari, and looking forward to the first moment he enters the game. But Milwaukee will need to be wary of losing focus on the task at hand. A very important game of basketball on their home floor. The Eastern Conference standings are extremely tight right now with three games separating 3rd from 7th. Making sure you take care of business at home against lower ranked teams will be vital down the stretch in the lead up to the playoffs. Celebrate a great individual achievement of course, just make sure you remember to focus on getting the win.
- Make Some Shots: The bulk of Milwaukee’s struggles last night came shooting the basketball. Finishing 38 percent from the floor and 21 percent from deep, the Bucks would have struggled to hit water out of a boat. Khris Middleton (7-20), Tony Snell (1-9), and Thon Maker (1-7) were the main culprits. Given we can expect injuries to render the Bucks shorthanded, they are going to need to find a away to knock down some shots from the outside if they are to achieve a bounce back victory.
- Beware Of The Unicorn: The battle between Giannis and Porzingis has already produced some memorable battles. Both players have again taken a major leap this season, and both will participate in this seasons All-Star game in Los Angeles. The 7’3″ Porzingis, is averaging 23.1 points per game on 40 percent from beyond the arc. With Giannis a likely scratch the job defensively on Kristaps will become a team effort. Defending him on the perimeter looms as an almost impossible task with John Henson and Thon Maker not able to stretch out to that range defensively. Perhaps the Bucks will resort to the old tactic of doubling at all costs and making someone else beat them? It may just be their best bet if Giannis is ruled out.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus