Just in case you weren’t following along at home, the preseason is over. The Bucks are no longer 1-5. Clean the slate. Now it counts.
Last year the Bucks traveled to Boston on to open their season against the juggernaut Celtics at a sold-out TD Garden. And what did they do? They shocked the Boston crowd by handling the Celtics and earning a 99-88 victory to start their season off with a 1-0 record.
Although the makeup of this years’ Milwaukee Bucks roster has some drastic variances (new head coach, 11 new players), they have the same goal; shock an east coast powerhouse and start the season off with a win. The Bucks will have the opportunity to do just that tonight as they head to Madison Square Garden tonight to open their season against the reigning Atlantic Division champions, the New York Knicks. Tipoff is at 6:30 PM CT with the game being televised on Fox Sports Wisconsin.
Bucks: Brandon Knight, O.J. Mayo, Khris Middleton, Caron Butler, Larry Sanders
Knicks: Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler
Ersan Ilyasova (ankle sprain) has returned to practice the past two days, but is listed as questionable for tonight’s contest. Even if Ersan is cleared to play, he will not start and will likely see only limited minutes.
Ekpe Udoh is still out after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this month. Same goes for Carlos Delfino, who is set to miss a significant amount of time.
Despite hamstring and ankle injuries respectively, both Brandon Knight and Caron Butler will start for Milwaukee.
The Knicks have no significant injuries, but Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith will not play against Milwaukee after receiving a 5-game suspension for violating the NBA’s drug policy.
Larry Drew spoke of his satisfaction with the “small ball” experiment he conducted at various times throughout the preseason—a lineup with Knight, Mayo, Butler, Sanders and Khris Middleton on the floor. Drew must have been particularly fond of their production, because Middleton is listed as a starter for tonight’s contest rather than John Henson.
The Bucks hosted the Knicks exactly one week ago in a preseason contest held in Green Bay. Thanks to electric scoring nights from Butler (24 pts) and Mayo (22 pts), the Bucks contained Carmelo Anthony and etched in a 105-95 victory, their only win of the preseason—unless you considered the cancelled game against Toronto as a W
What to Watch For
Larry Drew is going with his “small ball” lineup primarily to counter Carmelo Anthony starting at power forward for the Knicks. Expect Caron Butler to get the most time defending Anthony, but Middleton and Giannis could also get looks against the All-Star.
You may want to turn your volume down if you’re watching the game at home, as Madison Square Garden has the league’s most obnoxious arena sound effects. Can someone please burn that damn organ already?
I’ve got a weird feeling the Bucks are going to win this one and get everybody all excited. Milwaukee is going to have to play some tough team basketball for that to happen. Look for O.J. Mayo to have a monster game.
Prediction: Milwaukee 101, New York 97