Kyrie, Kyrie Irving, Irving, Spalding basketball in court, Nets, Knicks

Knicks Fall To Bucks And Celtics Again As Defense Struggles

The Knicks In Season Tournament run came to an abrupt end after getting dominated by the Bucks 146-122 in Milwaukee. New York was then rewarded with an extra matchup against the Celtics as they also lost their first round matchup against the Pacers. The Knicks fell down by 20 points in the third quarter, and could never get the game too close again as the Celtics won 133-123.

Knicks' Defense Flusters Against Top East Teams

In a playoff like atmosphere, and a real litmus test for New York in a matchup on the road in Milwaukee, the Knicks' defense struggled immensely. As a team, the Bucks shot an astounding 60.4 percent from the field and 60.5 percent from three. They made 55 total field goals and 23 threes to help towards their total of 146 points.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 35 points and had 10 assists on 15-22 shooting. Damian Lillard had 28 points on 8-13 from the field and 5-7 from three. Malik Beasley chipped in 18 points all on three-pointers as he shot 6-10 from behind the arc. Out of the nine rotation players for Milwaukee, not a single one shot under 50 percent from the field. Each of these players took a minimum of three shot attempts.

Against the Celtics, the team shooting percentages were not as high as Boston shot 52.7 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from three. Former Knick Kristaps Porzingis really gave the New York defense some fits early on in the game though.

Porzingis hit all three of his three-pointers in the first half as he took advantage of Mitchell Robinson wanting to help towards the paint rather than stick on Porzingis on the pick and pop. The other Celtics' big Al Horford gave New York some similar issues as he also made three three-pointers, and hit a few in big spots late in the game to retain the lead for Boston.

Knicks' Starting Lineup

With these two losses, the Knicks are now a combined 0-5 against the top two favorites to win the Eastern Conference in the Bucks and Celtics. Against .500 or better teams, New York is a mere 2-9. The starting lineup difference in productivity has been massive in these two games specifically.

The average plus minus of the starting lineup for the Knicks against the Bucks was a -10.8. For the Bucks, the average plus minus was a +18.2. Against the Celtics, the Knicks average plus minus was a -18.2. The Celtics average starting lineup plus minus was a +15.

The starting lineup did have a difference from the Bucks game to the Celtics game as Donte DiVincenzo replaced Quentin Grimes in the starting lineup going into the Celtics game. Grimes has really struggled to find his shot this season as he is shooting 37.2% from the field and 35.2% from three. DiVincenzo has had much more success shooting especially from three as he is shooting 42.6 percent.

Unfortunately for the Knicks, this change did not change the result of either game. This shooting guard problem might just be a microcosm of a larger issue for the New York starting lineup of a lack of overall talent as compared to the top teams like Milwaukee and Boston. Outside of Brunson and Randle, there has not been much of a consistent offensive contributor in the starting lineup.

RJ Barrett had a hot start to the season, however he has struggled as of late and his numbers are starting to look more like his career averages. Mitchell Robinson does not provide anywhere near the offensive output that a Porzingis or Brook Lopez does as he is really only a defensive force for the Knicks.

Speculation has surrounded the shooting guard spot in terms of a trade, as with the Bulls struggling DeMar DeRozan and Zach Lavine have been linked to the Knicks. These additions would certainly add more of an offensive punch to contend with the top teams, but neither are much of defenders, and New York has struggled defensively as of late.

It is still relatively early on in the season, and the Knicks will have more time to prove themselves as contenders as the trade deadline approaches. These games have certainly been disappointing against the Bucks and Celtics, but New York will have a chance to rebound against some lesser opponents with the Raptors on Monday and the Jazz on Wednesday.