Who’s currently leading the Central Division of the Eastern Conference?
A. The Bulls: They went 18-9 last season without Derrick Rose en route to the league’s best record of 50-16...
B. The Pacers: They showed potential in their second round matchup against the Heat last season, at one point holding a 2-1 series advantage…
C. I have no idea who’s in the East’s Central Division.
Before looking at the league standings two minutes ago, I certainly could not have told you who comprises the Central Division (and I’m suspicious of anyone outside of the Midwest who claims they could). What’s more, I’m suspicious of my source for the Central Division standings – they list the Milwaukee Bucks at the top of the division! (Bucks, Pacers, Bulls, Pistons, Cavs, in that order)
Let’s hope the Knicks are not as dismissive of the Bucks as I was and are prepared for a battle tonight against a fellow Eastern Conference division leader.
Point Guard Play
Jason Kidd will miss his second straight game tonight due to back spasms. His absence hurt the Knicks in Brooklyn, as they turned the ball over a season-high 14 times en route to a season-low 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Raymond Felton: your 5 assist, 5 turnover stat line didn’t cut it on Monday, and it won’t be enough tonight. You better come ready to play tonight against Brandon Jennings, the league leader with 3.2 steals per game and the defensive catalyst of a Bucks team that ranks fifth in the NBA in turnover rate, generating about 15.6 turnovers per 100 plays.
Monta Ellis, Milwaukee’s leading scorer with 19.1 points per contest, is averaging only 12 over his last three games. Ellis has been struggling with his shot even beyond those few games. He is on pace for a career-low 42.7% effective field goal percentage (shooting metric adjusting for the fact that 3-pointers are worth 1.5 as much as 2-point FGs), compared to a career eFG% mark of 48.8%. Meanwhile, Felton and J.R. Smith are coming off a combined 5-for-26 shooting effort (eFG% of 19.2%) on Monday. Whichever team can rediscover their shooting stroke will walk off the court victorious at the end of the night.
Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler carried the scoring load in Brooklyn, contributing 63 of the team’s 89 points (70.8%). Melo and Tyson really had no choice but to carry the team, as the Knicks’ bench was abysmal, shooting a horrendous 28.6% effective field goal percentage.
In complete contrast, the Bucks’ bench led Milwaukee back from a 27-point deficit last night in Chicago, highlighted by Ersan Ilyasova, who scored 12 of his season-high 18 points in the fourth quarter. In total, Milwaukee’s reserves outscored the Bulls’ bench 56-10.
So the Knicks’ bench better come prepared to match the intensity of the Bucks’ reserves tonight if the Knicks hope to snap their three-game road losing streak.