Mar 9, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings (3) drives for the basket in front of New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin (17) during the fourth quarter at the Bradley Center. The Bucks defeated the Knicks 119-114. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Game 49 Preview: Milwaukee Bucks (22-26) at New York Knicks (24-25)

For more than a month, the Bucks have alternately beaten up on bad teams and taken some punches from the good ones.  Tonight, in a must-win game, they get a team sitting on the threshold between the playoffs and the lottery-bound:  the New York Knicks.

Trailing by 1.5 games, the Bucks go into Madison Square Garden looking to pull within a half game of  a New York squad that is 6-1 in its last seven games.  In that stretch, the Knicks twice beat a Pacers team that pummeled the Bucks Saturday night.

Monta Ellis, who was wincing with pain in his left hand/finger Saturday, went through shootaround for the Bucks today and should play tonight.

For the Knicks, Jeremy Lin (sore right knee) and Amar’e Stoudemire (sore back) are listed as questionable.  Lin went through the Knicks shootaround, while Stoudemire was away getting treatment.  Both players said after the Knicks’ win on Saturday that they would be play in the game tonight.

Offensive Efficiency:
Milwaukee: 105.5 (9th)
New York: 102.7 (23rd)

Defensive Efficiency:
Milwaukee: 106.2 (2oth)
New York: 100.4 (5th)

Milwaukee: 92.9 (7th)
New York: 94.1 (3rd)

Projected Lineups:
Milwaukee: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Carlos Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova, Drew Gooden
New York:  Jeremy Lin, Landry Fields, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler

Box Score Advantage:  Size

In Tyson Chandler, the Knicks have a true rebounding/shot-blocking pivotman with true center size.  Not only are the Bucks dwarfed in the middle, but at each position in the starting lineup.

Knicks starters: 6′-3″, 6′-7″, 6′-8″, 6′-10″, 7′-1″
Bucks starters: 6′-1″, 6′-3″, 6′-6″, 6′-9″, 6′-10″  (and to be fair, Jennings is really 5′-11″, right?)

Can the Bucks deal with the size of the Knicks better than they fared against the Pacers?  In particular, can Monta Ellis outproduce Landry Fields in an efficient way?  Both Gerald Henderson and Paul George exposed him on defense in his last two games.

Matchup to watch: Brandon Jennings vs. Jeremy Lin

After the Bucks beat the Knicks on March 9th, Jennings summed up his duel with Lin via backhanded compliment.

“He’s a good point guard in a great system, if I could put it like that. He should be able to get numbers, should be able to get assists with Amare , Melo , J.R. Smith and Landry Fields and all those guys.

Lin in still in New York, as are his teammates, but the system — Mike D’Antoni’s fluid offensive sets — are gone.  Can Jennings take advantage?

Bottom Line:  This game is the most important of the Bucks’ remaining schedule.  Not only will it determine whether the Bucks are 0.5 or 2.5 games back at the end of the night, but a win would seal the Bucks the advantage in the determining playoff tiebreaker: head-to-head play.

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Tags: Amare Stoudemire Jeremy Lin Milwaukee Bucks Monta Ellis New York Knicks

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