"It's a must-win for us," Tyson Chandler said after the Bulls game Tuesday night. "We have to approach this as if it's a Game Seven playoff game in all honesty."
That's what's on the line tonight in Milwaukee, and with that, here are three things to watch for starting at 8 p.m. ET.
1. CAN THE KNICKS CONTROL THE OFFENSIVE GLASS?
Here's the biggest stat that stood out to me after the Knicks' loss last night: 18 offensive rebounds by the Bulls. And the Knicks? Only five, the same amount as Joakim Noah, who's tied for fourth-best in the NBA in offensive boards per game (3.7).
Well, guess what? The Bucks are almost as good as the Bulls on the offensive glass and with second-chance scoring. While the Bulls average 14.0 offensive rebounds and 16.1 second-chance points per game (both tops in the league), the Bucks' averages in both categories are 12.5 and 14.9 (both fifth-best in the league). The Knicks will have to especially keep a watchful eye on Bucks power foward Ersan Ilyasova, who's averaging 3.2 offensive boards per game (tied for ninth-best in the league).
2. WHO'S IT GOING TO BE TONIGHT: SMITH, SHUMPERT OR THE TEAM?
Are the Knicks going to win tonight like the Oklahoma City Thunder, with Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith/Iman Shumpert as the primary scorers, or like the Philadelphia 76ers, with Anthony leading the way and then balanced scoring throughout? Either way, other guys besides Melo, have to step up. Hear it right from the man himself.
"The guys that we need to be aggressive on the offensive end and take those shots, we need them to do that," he said after the Bulls game. "We were passing up open shots out there that guys should have taken. We can't pass that up."
Defensively, the Knicks have been doing it collectively, holding opponents to 89.2 points per game since March 14 when Mike Woodson took over -- the second-best mark during that stretch after the Bulls (88.8). And tonight it'll have to be on point, once again. Since Monta Ellis' debut with the Bucks on March 16, they've been averaging 104.7 points per game (previously 97.0). In fact, only one team in the league is averaging more points per game over that span: the San Antonio Spurs (106.4). However, what gives the Knicks (29-28) an advantage is that the Bucks are 9-25 (.265) against teams that currently own a .500-or-better winning percentage.
3. DOUBLE CHECKING ON MR. DISCOUNT ...
Do you have any 3-pointers available tonight? Steve Novak has missed each of his last nine field-goal attempts, the second longest such streak of his career. Novak missed 12 consecutive field-goal attempts in April of 2009.
Interesting stat: Only one player in the league this season has made more 3-pointers as a sub than Novak: Dallas Mavericks shooting guard Jason Terry (120). Novak has made 102 threes for the Knicks, but keep this mind: He's done it in far less playing time than Terry (796 minutes vs. 1,757 for Terry).
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