Bucks-Knicks Preview

The New York Knicks have a chance to pad their lead for the

Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, but it probably

won’t be easy judging from their past results against Brandon

Jennings and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Injuries could also play a part, with Jeremy Lin and Amare

Stoudemire uncertain to play Monday night when the Knicks face a

Bucks team that’s won five in a row on the road.

New York (24-25) leads Milwaukee (22-26) by 1 1/2 games for the

final postseason berth, and the Knicks view this contest in similar

terms to an 82-79 win at Philadelphia on Wednesday that bolstered

their Atlantic Division title hopes.

“Obviously, a very, very big game, right up there with our game

against Philly,” Lin said. “We need to make sure we come out there

and do the same and if we can get that one, I think we’ll be in a

good position.”

Lin, though, may not be able to help due to a sore right knee,

although he took part in Monday’s workout. Stoudemire’s injury is

the bigger concern, as the power forward’s troublesome back

tightened up during the team’s 101-79 victory over Detroit on

Saturday.

Stoudemire didn’t even attend the shootaround Monday, and he and

Lin are listed as questionable.

“That is a real big game for us. Going up against them, fighting

for that eighth spot,” forward Carmelo Anthony said. “The way we

have been playing … we want to continue to keep playing. We need

that game. We are going to be doing everything in our power to get

that game.”

The Knicks have had enough trouble beating the Bucks when

healthy, losing 12 of 14 meetings and eight of nine since bypassing

Jennings with the No. 8 pick in the 2009 draft before Milwaukee

took him with the 10th pick.

Jennings’ 20.7 scoring average against New York is his second

best versus any Eastern Conference club, while his 22.2 average at

Madison Square Garden is his best in any arena in which he’s played

at least three games. He’s averaged 36.5 points in his last two

visits to MSG and 30.5 in two victories over New York this

season.

The Bucks guard has a new backcourt mate in Monta Ellis,

acquired from Golden State on March 14. The players have shown some

trouble getting used to each other in five games together, with

Jennings averaging 14.2 points and Ellis 13.8.

Milwaukee, though, has won its three road contests since adding

Ellis by an average of 23.7 points. It will be facing a New York

team that has taken its four home games under Woodson by an average

of 24.5.

Despite that success, Woodson wants the Knicks to cut down on

their sloppy play. New York averages 16.5 turnovers – one of the

league’s worst marks – and overcame 22 in the rout of Detroit.

“From a basketball standpoint, the turnovers – it’s just

ridiculous I think,” Woodson said. “We’re just too nonchalant with

the basketball and not reading it.”

Milwaukee will be happy to have had Sunday off after a terrible

performance Saturday in a 125-104 home defeat to Indiana, its third

game in as many nights. The Bucks allowed the Pacers to shoot 51.2

percent and attempt 39 free throws.

“We have to play much better defensively,” forward Ersan

Ilyasova said. “We give up a lot of easy points, a lot of

second-chance opportunities for them. To be a playoff team, we

gotta be much better defensively.”

The Bucks are in the midst of their longest road win streak

since a six-game run Feb. 5-27, 2010 – a stretch that included two

wins at MSG. The Knicks last won five in a row at home during a

six-game streak Dec. 1-22, 2009.