When the New York Knicks started their season full of hope and expectations, they probably did not circle March 26 on their calendars as an important night.
Yet, they hold just a 1 1/2-game lead for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference as they prepare for one of the most critical games of the season against the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden in Monday’s best game.
Looking to reach .500 for the first time since beating Sacramento on February 15, New York (24-25) will try to push its lead over Milwaukee to 2 1/2 games and get a chance to tie the season series as the teams play one last time on April 11 – a game set to air on ESPN.
However, the Knicks have traditionally struggled against the Bucks, losing 12 of the last 14 meetings, including both games this season.
Things won’t get any easier as Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire are both listed as questionable for tonight’s game.
While Lin (sore knee) took part in the morning shootaround, Stoudemire stayed in the city to receive treatment and will have an MRI today, a new development for his troublesome back dating to last season.
If one or both can’t go, the Knicks will need a big game from Carmelo Anthony, who is having the most forgettable season of his career. He is averaging just 20 points on 39.9% shooting this season, both career lows.
Tyson Chandler, on the other hand, is having a career year and on pace to have the best conversion rate in the history of the NBA other than Wilt Chamberlain.
Milwaukee (22-26) has won seven of its last nine games, including five straight on the road.
Recent acquisition Monta Ellis will play tonight despite showing discomfort in his finger in the previous game. The bigger issue for Ellis may be adjusting to his new teammates as he is averaging just 13.8 points on 38.7% shooting in his first five contests.