The Milwaukee Bucks (28-29) will host the New York Knicks (29-28) in a matchup that could very well decide who will represent the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. It is possible to even get a shot at the seventh seed depending on how the Philadelphia 76ers plays the rest of the season. One thing is for sure, with nine games left on the regular season this is the most important contest thus far for both teams.
The Bucks and Knicks will be treating Wednesday’s night matchup as if it was a playoff game, which is why it is important to look at every possible angle. Scoring points will obviously be important but whichever team can be the shutdown defense will surely win.
The following are the top five matchups to watch for in tonight’s contest.
5. Brandon Jennings vs. Baron Davis
Brandon Jennings will have to do far better than his 6-of-22 performance the last time the Bucks faced the Knicks on March 26. If he can push the pace of the game and draw defenders in as he moves swiftly to the basket, it will create wide open shots for his teammates on the outside. Baron Davis is coming off an eight point six assist performance in a loss against the Chicago Bulls. If Jennings is running constantly, Davis will have a hard time keeping up.
4. Bucks 3-Point vs. Knicks Defense
It is no secret the Bucks have been known to live and die by the three-pointer as Milwaukee has shot 34.7 percent as a team this season from beyond the arc. If the Bucks’ sharpshooters can get it going on the outside it will make it very difficult for the Knicks to plan their defense accordingly. However, New York has held opponents to 35.2 percent per game from 3-point range this season which could be a cause for concern for Milwaukee.
3. Tyson Chandler vs. Drew Gooden, Ersan Ilyasova
This is a big-time matchup in the center of the court. Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova will have their hands full defending Tyson Chandler as he is a beast on offense and a difficult defender to move on defense. Chandler is averaging 1.55 blocks and 10.0 rebounds per game which is something the Bucks must recognize. However, Gooden and Ilyasova are both excellent perimeter shooters which means they will be able to draw Chandler out allowing offensive playmakers to drive the lane.
2. Monta Ellis vs. Iman Shumpert
There is no question Milwaukee’s chances of winning tonight rest on the shoulders of Monta Ellis. The Bucks are more than capable of winning the game without him converting shots, as they have already proven this season. However, they will need a difference maker in a game of this magnitude which is exactly why Milwaukee traded for Ellis in the first place. Iman Shumpert is big for a shooting guard and is an excellent defender who can harass until no end. He is averaging 1.8 steals per game this season and was very productive in the last two games against Chicago.
1. Bucks defense vs. Carmelo Anthony
It is no secret Carmelo Anthony is playing out of his mind right now as he will be the player the Bucks must stop in order to be victorious. Anthony has scored 72 points in his last two games, both against the Bulls. Milwaukee’s defense as a whole will have to fight together to defend him but Carlos Delfino will be the main guy in charge. It is crucial Delfino stays in front of Anthony at all times with hands up and ready. At no point should Delfino or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Milwaukee’s defensive specialist who will most likely be guarding Anthony when Delfino is out, allow Anthony any room to pull up for a jumper. If they can shut down Anthony, the Bucks will shut down the Knicks.