New York Knicks: Three players to watch against Bucks

The New York Knicks will travel to the midwest to face the Milwaukee Bucks. A look at the three players to watch in this matchup.

On Monday night, the New York Knicks, at 4-16, will close the second half of their latest back-to-back against the Milwaukee Bucks. It requires a trip to Milwaukee, WI to face one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams.

Just over 24 hours after their heartbreaking loss to the Boston Celtics, the Knicks must overcome a fourth-quarter collapse, a long flight, and another losing streak, although facing the Bucks is no easy way to beat the odds. Who are the players to watch in this game on Dec. 2?

Honorary mention: Giannis Antetokounmpo

No kidding.

Dennis Smith Jr.

If Frank Ntilikina can’t play due to a back injury, Dennis Smith Jr. will get all the minutes he can handle at point guard. The Knicks have no healthy back-up to him unless Kadeem Allen is called up from Westchester. Even then, the minutes disparity will be large since Smith Jr. accumulated 38 minutes.

With 17 points and seven assists against Boston, the 21-year-old guard pushed the pace and contributed to the effective ball movement — at least in the first three quarters. He only turned the ball over twice and blocked two shots, too, providing arguably his best game of the season.

The quick turnaround, though, will test Smith Jr.’s stamina to play heavy minutes and be relied on to score if Ntilikina sits. Having the Frenchman back would be helpful towards stopping Milwaukee’s potent offense, but without him, the North Carolina State product will have another chance to shine.

Kevin Knox

From not playing due to coach’s decision to starting, Kevin Knox assumed Marcus Morris‘ spot against the Celtics due to injury. As of now, Morris’ status in Milwaukee is unknown, but after his play Sunday night, it should not put Knox’s playing time in doubt.

Along with the 11 points and two three-pointers, the second-year forward showed some defensive improvement with a pair of blocks and had a -3 plus/minus, which tied for the second-lowest team mark, and overcame two early fouls.

A strong follow-up performance will gain Fizdale’s confidence, no matter who the opponent is. If Knox takes a step back, however, he could find himself on the bench when the New York Knicks return home Thursday.

Mitchell Robinson

Speaking of taking a step back, Mitchell Robinson‘s foul woes have not disappeared. He fouled out for the third time in four games against Boston, and he has just six games of three or fewer fouls this season.

Plus, Robinson’s blocks per game are down from 2.4 to 1.9.

A turnaround performance, especially for someone of this defensive anchor’s caliber, always looms. He will be tested, however, when Giannis Antetokounmpo attacks the paint at will. It could create a quick foul pile-up, sending the young big man to the bench, or he steps up to contain the “Greek Freak” and has a controlled, positive performance.