The Milwaukee Bucks have taken advantage of a light schedule to win six of their last seven games since firing head coach Jason Kidd. Tonight they return to the scene of one of last seasons great moments. Giannis Antetokounmpo drained a free throw line fade away jump shot as time expired to beat the Knicks at the worlds most famous arena. It was a marquee highlight for a player who has in the space of two seasons, ascended to the join the leagues elite.
It wasn’t the latest game winner for Giannis against the Knicks however, as just last Friday, he finished a lay up with 1.9 seconds left to secure a 92-90 victory for Milwaukee in Jabari Parker’s return to action.
Speaking of Parker, his return to the floor has been nothing short of amazing. His confidence to attack the basket and draw contact is looking as strong as ever. A noticeably slimmer Parker has played 31 total minutes, scoring 23 points, and going 10-12 from the free throw line. Parker has been on a rough 15 minute restriction in his first two contests and it figures to be a slow rise in court time, though the Bucks do have two nights off after tonight’s game which could influence this.
In other Bucks news, they have again hit the trade table, as a deal was struck yesterday to acquire Brooklyn big man Tyler Zeller. Heading to the Nets is third year guard Rashad Vaughn, who’s contract option was declined earlier this season meaning he was highly unlikely to remain with the Bucks beyond this season. A protected second round pick was also sent to the Nets in the deal. Given the Bucks are in the New York area, it’s possible Zeller could join the team for tonight’s game.
The Knicks will be determined to pay the Bucks back for last Fridays loss, as they will feel it was one they should have won. The Knicks dominated the rebounding battle but struggled to make anything from the outside, as they finished 5-25 from three. The Knicks led by one point after one quarter, and then the game was tied at the half and through three quarters, indicating how tight the contest was.
Kristaps Porzingis in particular will look to rebound as the Bucks defended him terrifically well in holding the All-Star to 17 points on 15 shots. The Bucks were able to execute well timed double teams, forcing Porzingis into a tough shot, or in fact making him give the ball away. It was amazing the Knicks were able to stay in the game despite their stars poor performance and the teams shooting struggles.
The Bucks have been in the New York area since Saturday night, after blowing out the Nets on Sunday afternoon. Eric Bledsoe shook off a rough start to finish with 28 points, while John Henson had season highs in points (19), and rebounds (18), as the Bucks closed well to round out 15 point winners. The injury bug again struck the Bucks however as first Matthew Dellavedova turned his ankle badly and is listed as out for tonight. While Giannis again turned his ankle, this time with 7:30 left in the fourth and he never returned. He is listed as probable for tonight and is expected to play.
The Bucks recent run of strong form has seen them climb back into the 5th seed in the East and within 1.5 games of 3rd. With 5 games left before the All-Star break the Bucks are setting themselves up nicely for the last third of the regular season. Continuing to win games they are expected to win like tonight will go along way to helping the cause.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Curtail Kanter: I mentioned the rebounding dominance the Knicks had over the Bucks on Friday night. I didn’t mention the main cause of the destruction. Enes Kanter was an absolute force on the glass for New York, reeling in 18 rebounds, 8 of which came on the offensive glass. Overall the Knicks won the rebounding battle 64-43 and 18-4 on the offensive side. Henson responded next outing by grabbing 18 rebounds of his own, including 7 on the offensive end. Lets see if Hook and company have learnt anything from Friday night, and are able to contain the Knicks big men, specifically Kanter.
- Jabari’s Bench Spark: We all knew that adding Jabari to the Bucks lineup would provide an instant spark. We probably didn’t expect him to look this good, this quickly. Parker has attacked the rim, pulled up for floaters, knocked down mid range shots and even hit a three in his 31 minutes on court so far. His presence on the floor has sparked Milwaukee in both games and though he is still rounding into game shape, having him in the mix will again prove a positive spark for Milwaukee tonight.
- Stay Healthy!!: Given the Bucks have just regained the above mentioned Parker from a long term injury, it’s been a disastrous week otherwise for the Bucks on that front. Malcolm Brogdon is out for 6-8 weeks with a quadriceps tendon strain, Dellavedova badly twisted his ankle and is out tonight, while Henson also clutched at his hamstring last game despite playing on. Combine that with Giannis tweaking his ankle twice in the last week and the Bucks are starting to look a little fragile. A clean bill of health tonight will go along way to the Bucks getting the result they need tonight, and moving forward.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus