Here are the standings in the Eastern Conference:
As you can see, the New York Knicks are just 1 game ahead of the 9th place Milwaukee Bucks. If the Knicks lose to the Bucks tonight, the teams will be tied for 8th place in the Eastern conference. This is a huge game for the Knicks. There is no other way to say it. However, I do have a problem with something that Tyson Chandler said.
“It’s a must-win for us,” Tyson Chandler said. “We have to approach this as if it’s a Game Seven playoff game in all honesty.” via ESPN New York
Obviously this is a huge game, but a must win? The term “must win” implies that the Knicks season will be over if they do not win this game. This is not a “must win” game, because the Knicks have 9 incredibly important games after this. I do not believe that any good comes from over-dramatizing the importance of a game. The Knicks should feel the pressure to win, but there is a potential for a breakdown if too much pressure is felt. I don’t like Chandler saying this is a must win, because there is a chance the Knicks may lose this game. If they are to lose, the season is not over. There are 9 games after this! If they are to lose, the Knicks cannot go into a hole and tank the rest of the year. Whether they win or lose this game, the Knicks have to take care of business the remaining 9 games. This is not a must win folks, but it is a huge game.
Here’s what to watch for:
- The battle of the backcourts. Milwaukee has a more explosive back court than the Knicks. While Baron Davis and Landry Fields have struggled recently, Iman Shumpert hasn’t, the Bucks backcourt has been playing well. In their past five games, both Bucks starters have averaged more than 18 points per game. The Knicks backcourt has been pretty bad. Baron Davis has been awful, while Landry Fields has been streaky at best. Iman Shumpert brings it defensively every night and he is one of the x-factors in tonight’s game. He will be assigned to guard either Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis. Shumpert has the ability to successfully guard either player. In addition to Shumpert’s defense, the Knicks must get solid defense from Fields and Davis. The Knicks cannot win a shoot out with Milwaukee. I firmly believe that. The Knicks aren’t shooting well enough to win a 110-109 type game. New York has to lock down Milwaukee’s explosive guards in order to win tonight. And it would be nice if the Knick backcourt produced offensively tonight also.
- Speaking of offense, where do the points come from tonight? New York’s bench scored 18 points last night. Landry Fields, Baron Davis and Iman Shumpert, 3 of the 5 Knick starters, combined to score 30 points last night. That is not good enough. It simply isn’t good enough. Without the services of Lin and Stoudemire, the Knicks have to find more ways to score. Carmelo Anthony is balling and he’s playing great, but he cannot do it on his own. New York needs guys like JR Smith, Steve Novak, Baron Davis and Iman Shumpert to pick up the scoring. They didn’t do it last night. Lets see if they do it tonight.
- Watch Tyson Chandler’s impact tonight. Last time these two teams played, the Knicks held Milwaukee to 80 points and out-rebounded the Bucks 54-41. Most of that can be attributed to Tyson Chandler. Against the murderer’s row front court (sarcasm) of Drew Gooden, Ekpe Udoh and Ersan Ilyasova, Chandler should again have a dominant game. The Knick center has grabbed 31 rebounds over the past two games and is playing at a high level. I could break it down more, but I won’t. I invite you tonight to really watch Chandler operate. Appreciate what you’re seeing Knick fans, because Chandler is doing special things defensively. I think he deserves to win Defensive Player of the Year, and I’m not alone in that thinking.
- Novak has to get going. The Knicks can’t win with Novak shooting cold. He’s New York’s only consistent three point shooter and he has to stretch the floor for the Knicks. He cannot stretch the floor if he’s shooting 0/4 every game. I think Novak will get going tonight. I hope Novak gets going tonight… Knicks are in trouble if he doesn’t.