Knicks-Bucks: What to Watch For

The fact that the 2011 Knicks have reached this point in the season is very, very sad.

This was a Knick team that had championship aspirations coming into the season. The Knicks have been nothing short of disappointing this season. At 24-25, the Knicks are now scrapping for their playoff lives. They sit just 1 1/2 games ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks for the 8th seed in the playoffs. Milwaukee plays hard and has some nice players, but there is no way they should be competing with the Knicks for a spot in the playoffs. The Knicks should not be in this position. They should be fighting for a higher playoff seed, not fighting for a spot in the playoffs. It is very sad.

Nonetheless, we have arrived at this point. Tonights game at Madison Square Garden is a huge game for New York. If they lose to Milwaukee, the Knicks will be just a half game ahead of the Bucks in the standings. Including tonights game, only 7 of Milwaukee’s last 18 opponents have a winning record. 10 of the Knicks last 17 opponents have winning records. A Knicks win tonight would put them 2 1/2 games up on the Bucks. By no means would they be out of the woods, but it would provide the Knicks with a decent cushion on which to sit on. Given how the Bucks remaining schedule is easier than the Knicks remaining schedule, New York needs as big a cushion as they can get. I would go as far to say that a Knicks loss tonight would be disastrous. In my opinion, this is a must win game for the Knicks.

Here’s what to watch for:

  • Whats going on with Stoudemire? In Saturday nights victory over Detroit, Amar’e Stoudemire left the game in the 3rd quarter with stiffness in his back. After the game, the injury was blown off. Stoudemire said he could have returned if the game was close. Today, there are reports surfacing that suggest Stoudemire may have re-injured his back with a similar injury to what he had at the end of last season. According to Frank Isola of the Daily News, Stoudemire is getting an MRI on his back today. Let me say this. If Amar’e Stoudemire has any sort of serious injury, this team is screwed. They are screwed. They are screwed. They. Are. Screwed. This team is not good enough to overcome an injury to Stoudemire. After Tyson Chandler, Stoudemire has probably been the Knicks best player over these past 7 games. His defense and rebounding has been outstanding, he finally found his athleticism and he’s been producing more offensively. This would be a monumental loss for the Knicks. To make matters worse, Jared Jeffries is also injured. Tommy Dee reported today that he may be out for more than 2 weeks, as originally reported. Where do the Knicks go if Stoudemire is out indefinitely? Do you feel comfortable putting Josh Harrellson in the starting lineup during these immensely important games? I certainly don’t. I like Jorts, but he’s not a starting caliber power forward in this league. Not even close. Do you put Carmelo Anthony at power forward? I’m not sure thats a good idea either. Sure, you can get out and run with a smaller lineup, but the Knicks would get annihilated on the boards. Melo hasn’t been shooting well either. He’s been best scoring at the rim. Is it a great idea to have Melo being guarded by power forwards who will block his shots? Neither scenario is good for the Knicks, which is why a serious injury to Stoudemire was be so detrimental to the team.
  • ┬áThe Knicks have to control the boards. Last time these two squads played, a Bucks 119-114 victory, Milwaukee grabbed 17 offensive rebounds to the Knicks 9. In that game, Tyson Chandler was out with an injury and the Bucks exposed Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony on the boards. Chandler is back tonight, but now Stoudemire is likely out. Carmelo Anthony has to work to keep Ersan Ilyasova off the boards tonight. Offensive rebounds put the dagger into the Knicks heart in the last minute of the Bucks 119-114 victory. The Knicks cannot let that happen tonight.
  • How do the Knicks defend both Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis? Jennings is a Knick killer. In two games versus the Knicks this season, Jennings has scored 36 points and 25 points in those two games. Not only do the Knicks have to worry about Jennings now, but they now have to deal with Monta Ellis. The Bucks added the dynamo shooting guard from Golden State at the trade deadline. There’s only one Iman Shumpert. Obviously, he can’t guard Jennings and Ellis at the same time. Somebody else is going to have to step up defensively tonight. Jeremy Lin struggled to guard Jennings in their last matchup. Do you trust Fields or JR Smith guarding Ellis? I like Smith checking him more than I like Fields checking him, but we’ll see what happens.
  • Can the Knicks survive the trials and tribulations of the 3rd quarter? New York always loses the third quarter, which is a big reason why they often lose a lot of games. On Saturday, the Knicks actually won the 3rd quarter 27-24. You’d think its a great sign until you realize they were playing a Pistons team that didn’t really want to be there. This is going to be a close game tonight. The Knicks cannot afford to get blown out in the 3rd quarter like they were on Friday in Toronto. Somehow, Woodson has to get these guys to come out focused and energized coming out of the locker room at halftime.
  • There will be a lot of pressure on Carmelo Anthony tonight, and quite frankly there should be. This man has not lived up to what he was supposed to be. Tonight, Melo can take a step towards being the “superstar” that he was advertised to be. In all likelihood, Amar’e Stoudemire will not play. Carmelo must find his shooting stroke tonight. The Knicks are going to need him to play well in order to win tonight. He’s been abysmal over the past month, but Stoudemire picking up the slack has helped the team win. It’s time for Anthony to stop screwing around. I don’t care if he’s having some off court problem with Lala. I don’t care if he has a sore wrist. Kobe Bryant had a far worse wrist injury earlier this year and he produced. Its time for Melo to put up or shut up. I don’t need to hear anymore notable quotes about finding energy or sacrificing if he plays poorly tonight. This is a game in which the Knicks need Melo. He needs to man up and play well tonight. If he doesn’t, I hope the media roasts him because he’ll deserve it. He’s being paid $18 million this year to put the ball in the basket. If he’s not doing that and he’s mediocre in all other areas of the game, then why is he being paid? Anthony has to show up tonight. I pray to god that he does. Maybe Tebow can help me out with that.
  • Also, Chauncey Billups has a twitter now. In case anybody is interested in that.
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