New York always plays tough against Milwaukee. And there’s more than just a winning streak on the line. In fact, there might even be a revenge factor.
Can the banged up Knicks rise to the occasion and send Giannis & Co. home with a loss?
Time: Monday, Jan. 9, 7:30 p.m. ET.
Injuries: RJ Barrett (finger, doubtful), Khris Middleton (knee, out), Serge Ibaka (personal, out).
Betting Line: Knicks +1, Over/Under 221 via Sports Betting Dime.
Key Storyline. Can the Knicks finally solve the Bucks? We mentioned a revenge factor for this game, and it’s not just because the Knicks have always played Milwaukee tougher under Tom Thibodeau. The Bucks last visited on Nov. 30 and both teams went toe to toe before Grayson Allen sunk a tie-breaking three with 30 seconds remaining. Milwaukee eventually won 109-103.
Monday will also be an uphill battle because on top of the Bucks being the No. 3 team in the East, Barrett is still out with a lacerated finger. That’s 19.7 points per game the rest of the Knicks have to pick up while he recovers.
Yet, Milwaukee will be motivated after a humiliating loss to Charlotte on Friday, so the Knicks had better be ready.
Key Matchup. Mitchell Robinson vs. Brook Lopez. As far as starting seven-foot centers go, the differences between Lopez and Robinson are pretty wide. Lopez is all length and more of a scoring big who can stretch his offense into three-point territory. Robinson, on the other hand, is traditionally more defensive and an elite rim protector who lives in the paint.
And New York needs Robinson’s defense in top form on Monday, given Lopez’s hot start to January. He’s averaging 11.8 points and 11.3 rebounds, plus 2.3 blocks. Robinson will not only need to keep Lopez honest on the perimeter, but use his strength to thoroughly dominate him in the paint.
X-Factor. Immanuel Quickley. It’d be ideal for the Knicks if Quickley has a hot shooting night against Milwaukee and helps fill the Barrett void. He’s averaging 14.3 points this month and 11.9 on the year. Yet, Quickley’s signature piece of offense, his three-point shooting, leaves something to be desired this season. He’s shooting just 32.8% from downtown this year and even worse at 28.6% this month.
We should also note Quickley was a non-factor when the Bucks visited on Nov. 30. Forget New York missing seven free throws that game and losing 109-103. Quickley going 0 for 5 from three didn’t help either, and he’ll need to be better Monday since he’s likely starting.
Knicks predicted starters: Jalen Brunson (PG), Immanuel Quickley (SG), Quentin Grimes (SF), Julius Randle (PF), Mitchell Robinson (C).
Bucks predicted starters: Jrue Holiday (PG), Grayson Allen (SG), Pat Connaughton (SF), Giannis Antetokounmpo (PF), Brook Lopez (C).
Prediction: Third time’s the charm. Fate will prove to be on the Knicks’ side as they finally beat the Bucks in a tight contest, and maybe give a potential playoff preview too. Knicks 107, Bucks 103.
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