GREENBURGH — Here’s what the Knicks know about their schedule this week:
On Tuesday night, they will play an In-Season Tournament knockout game in Milwaukee against a Bucks team that is 7-0 against them since Nov. 5, 2021.
With a win over the Bucks, the Knicks would head to Las Vegas, where they would be one of four teams contending to win the inaugural tournament. If they lose to the Bucks, they will face the Celtics in Boston on Friday night.
(The Pacers beat the Celtics in a knockout game on Monday. If the Celtics had won, a loss to the Bucks would have resulted in the Knicks hosting Indiana on Wednesday.)
When asked Monday after practice how he plans to deal with the uncertainty of the schedule, Julius Randle smiled. “I pack for Vegas,” he said.
The Bucks (14-6) are a tough out by any count. Milwaukee is tied for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and was the only team to go 4-0 in Group B. In their meeting in early November, the Bucks held on to beat the Knicks despite Jalen Brunson’s season-high 45 points.
The Knicks (12-7) are a better team than the one that lost in Milwaukee on Nov. 3. Since that loss, they have gone 10-3 and Randle has gotten over his slow start.
In the first six games of the season, a stretch that ended with the loss to the Bucks, he averaged 13.7 points and shot 27.1%. In the 13 games since, he has averaged 23.5 points and shot 47.0%.
Coach Tom Thibodeau said the Knicks knew it was going to take Randle some time to get back into Randle mode, given that he was recovering from offseason ankle injury.
“You have surgery and that changes your approach in the offseason,” he said. “Julius is a guy that he’s got to feel good. He’s got to be in the gym. He was doing his rehab, not what his normal routine is. It takes some time to get that rhythm back . . . He had some good games [early], but that consistency wasn’t there like it is now.”
Randle, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday, said he’s in a much better place than he was earlier in the season when he was still trying to find some sharpness.
“For me, it’s an everyday process of continuing to get better,” he said. “It’s build more stamina in my legs, get my rhythm, my touch and all that different type of stuff. It was a process and it’s a never-ending process for me. Even when I improve, I want to improve more. It’s not like I get somewhere and it’s like, good, I’m there.”
Randle said the entire team is confident heading into this matchup in Milwaukee regardless of the seven-game losing streak against the Bucks.
“We played them well the past four or five times,” he said. “Into last season, we’ve played them close games. We’re kind of looking to get over that hump.
“Obviously, Damian Lillard made some great shots the last time we played there. But we feel good about our chances going in.”