The 3-0 Milwaukee Bucks take on the 3-1 New York Knicks Friday night in downtown Milwaukee. This is game 3 of 6 of the unusually long home stand to start the year. It is strange because the Bucks have such a long stretch at home; stranger because the Bucks don’t seem to be playing with as much frequency as other NBA teams (only game 4 on the season?) And I know in this space we harp a lot on this long homestand, but the Bucks have another right sized 4 game homestand over the Thanksgiving week. The schedule-makers have been kind.
It’s not hard to wonder if this homestand has been a huge advantage for this veteran team: it has. The Atlanta Hawks are in town on Saturday, but the schedule makers did not do Atlanta any favors either by putting them on a back-to-back from Detroit. Next week the Bucks have a strange home in home series against Detroit (Oct. 31st/Nov. 2nd). It makes you wonder if the Pistons fly back and then practice and fly back in, or if they just hang out in Milwaukee for a few days. Maybe they go rip up Water street? Either way, advantage Bucks.
Vegas has the Bucks at a 69% chance to win the game against the Knicks and 8 point favorites. This is a game the Bucks should win.
The keys for the Bucks will be to continue to establish their identity. So far this season the Bucks start strong (32 points in quarter one), take their foot off the gas a little in the second quarter, come back strong in the third quarter (30.5 points in quarter three) and cruise to victory with clamp-down 4th quarter defense. (Opponents average 24.3 points against the Bucks in the 4th.) In the NBA, in the regular season, that is a very good, winning-formula.
Another key for the Bucks will be to continue to pass the ball. The Bucks are 16th in the NBA in assists per game. (24.7) When they pass, they win. If they become the “stand around and watch Giannis try to score” team we have seen them be in the past, that does not bode well for a victory. That “magic number” for the Bucks is right around 26. If they can hit that number of team assists and make good passes, they win.
The Opponent: The New York Knicks
The Knicks have some good players. RJ Barrett has turned out to be a good draft and develop guy for them in his 3rd season, averaging 18 a game. He has shot horribly from behind the arc (14%) but you have to think he’ll turn that around. Barrett can play
Free agent addition Jalen Brunson has really helped provide stability for them at the point guard position. Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickly were an interesting experiment last season but Brunson has been much, much better. (20pts-4reb-8 asst) Isaiah Hartenstein and Mitchell Robinson are rounding into being very serviceable centers. They will give the Bucks, and Brook Lopez, a worthwhile challenge.
The marquee match-up will be Julius Randle vs Giannis. Randle has a similar stat line to Brunson (20pts- 8reb-4 asst) and is entering his prime (27yr old- 8th NBA season). He’ll be important to contain offensively.
The Knicks are coming off a thrilling overtime win against Charlotte. (134-131) We’ll see if they can carry over that momentum.
Things to tell your buddies as you are watching the game
- According to Stathead (and this is crazy!) Giannis Antetokounmpo is the only player in NBA history to average at least 25pts, 10rebounds, 5 assists, one block and one steal per game in multiple seasons. He’ll certainly make a run at doing that again this year. Through three games Giannis has a pretty prolific stat line: 36 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, .7 steals, and 2 blocks per game.
- Bobby Portis is off to a great start. Right now his points per game (14.7) and rebounds per game (9.7), his field goal shooting percentage, and three point shooting are all above his career averages. You can only do better than what you’ve done.
- The Knicks have a ton of players in their mid-20’s. Only Evan Fornier is older than 30 on their roster. And his birthday (turning 31) is tomorrow.
- The Knicks missed the playoffs last year, finishing 37-45. Unlike other teams in their position, they don’t seem to be interested in “tanking” this year. Tanking is going to be a problem and the league knows it. Already it appears eight teams have started to raise the white flag in hopes of getting 7ft 2in center Victor Wembanyama. That certainly doesn’t make for the best fan experience.
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