The inaugural In-Season Tournament will heat up this week with the quarterfinals, semifinals, and championship. The New York Knicks' rematch against the Bucks will happen on Tuesday in Milwaukee.
After winning a back-to-back to end last week, New York will have three full days off before its tip-off. Considering what the team's schedule will be if they lose to the Bucks, the Knicks have been given a nice little break.
While it might seem like a loss is inevitable for New York, especially since the game is on the road, don't count out the Knicks. Milwaukee is No. 3 in the East, two spots above New York, and has won two more games than the Knicks. While the Bucks have won four of their last six games, they suffered an embarrassing overtime loss to the Bulls on Nov. 30.
New York has proven that it can beat anyone. The Knicks are the team that won't go away, so it isn't surprising that The Athletic's John Hollinger believes they can knock off the Bucks (subscription required).
The Athletic's John Hollinger predicts Knicks-Celtics In-Season Tournament semifinals matchup
One month ago, New York barely lost to Milwaukee on the road, 110-105. It took Jalen Brunson dropping 45 points to keep the Knicks in the game, while Julius Randle shot 5-of-20 for 20 points.
New York was down by 10 at halftime and down by as many as 14 points in the third quarter. The Knicks managed to chip away at the Bucks' lead, taking a two-point lead in the fourth quarter. Considering that New York shot 10-of-39 from three (25.9%) compared to Milwaukee's 20-of-39 (51.3%) shooting, it's impressive that the Knicks only lost by five.
"The Knicks narrowly lost to the Bucks in a group-play game in early November, which is the reason this game is being played in Milwaukee and not New York, but the Bucks needed to double up the Knicks from the 3-point line, 20-10, to survive that one. Don’t count on the shooting-variance gods saving them like that a second time. "- John Hollinger, The Athletic
In New York's last three games, Randle has shot 53% or higher from the field. While he could struggle offensively again in Milwaukee, it's hard to see him shooting as poorly as he did in the first matchup. Then there's Brunson, who can take the game over at any moment.
None of this is to say that the Knicks will pick up an easy win. It'll be the opposite. New York will have to grind it out, but as Hollinger highlighted, it took Milwaukee shooting 51% from three to hold off the Knicks earlier in the season. The Bucks could be hot again from deep, but so could the Knicks. As a team, New York is shooting 37.7% from three, slightly higher than Milwaukee's 37.3%.
For the Knicks, the chance to return to Milwaukee should be exciting. It'll give the team an opportunity to do what they couldn't do a month ago, which is walk away with a win.