2012 Game Preview – Knicks @ Bobcats

Knicks Bobcats

New York Knicks (6-10, 3-4 away) @ Charlotte Bobcats (3-14, 2-6 home)

The Knicks are on the verge of their longest losing streak in two years, and will head down to Charlotte to face the struggling Bobcats, who are losers of four straight. These two teams have met twice this season already, splitting the two contests.

It’s ironic the Knicks are playing a game at Time Warner Cable Arena, reminding me of the rights dispute obstructing my ears from hearing Clyde’s prancin’ and dancin’!

Fundamentals
When – January 24th, 2012
Time – 7:00 PM EST
Where – Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC

Injury Report – New York
Baron Davis (Back) – Practiced yesterday!
Josh Harrellson (Broken Right Wrist) – Out indefinitely.

Injury Report – Charlotte
D.J. Augustin (Inflamed Big Toe) – Left Sunday’s game against New Jersey.
Corey Maggette (Strained Left Hamstring)
D.J. White (Bruised Left Knee) – Missed Sunday’s game against New Jersey.
Reggie Williams (Left Knee Surgery) – Will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks.

Offensive Rating – New York – 98.6 (24th), Charlotte – 97.3 (26th)
Defensive Rating – New York – 101.0 (12th), Charlotte – 108.4 (28th)
Pace – New York – 94.5 (3rd), Charlotte – 92.6 (11th)
High PER Performer – New York – Carmelo Anthony (22.5), Charlotte – Byron Mullens (17.4)

Probable Starters – New York
PG – Iman Shumpert
SG – Landry Fields
SF – Carmelo Anthony
PF – Amar’e Stoudemire
C – Tyson Chandler

Probable Starters – Charlotte
PG – Kemba Walker
SG – Gerald Henderson
SF – Derrick Brown
PF – Tyrus Thomas
C – Byron Mullens

Evidently, Knick and McDonald’s killer Boris Diaw is now coming off the bench as a reserve.

Keep an Eye On

1. ‘Melo Post Ups – I have pleaded for more bully ball, waited for ‘Melo to consistently utilize his strengh and size down low in the post. Justifying my frustration, he is posting his counterpart only 10.4% of the time, compared to 34.3% in isolation. The Bobcats are among the best when it comes to defending the isolation, only allowing 0.69 PPP (Points Per Possesion), according to mySynergySports. Placing ‘Melo between the low block and foul line extended creates a double team almost instantly, opening up more opportunities for teammates to find the open space on the floor. ‘Melo averages 1.07 PPP when he goes to the post up game, high enough for 7th in the league. The injured left wrist is obviously hindering his shooting stroke, so it is imperative ‘Melo gets easy buckets, instead of settling for off balance 17-footers.

2. Kemba Walker – With D.J. Augustine expected to miss this contest, the blazing fast rookie will get the start. His presence and attack first mentality could spark the struggling squad. Walker’s speed is impeccable, making him an assassin in transition, converting turnovers into quick and easy buckets. With the injury to Augustin, expect Kemba to take full advantage of the added spotlight.

3. State of Crisis – The Knicks haven’t been victorious in two weeks, D’Antoni’s seat has reached a scorching temperature. The Knicks have hit rock bottom, and will attempt to pick themselves back up to the surface, starting tonight in Charlotte.

2012 Game Preview – Suns @ Knicks

Suns Knicks

Phoenix Suns (4-9, 1-5 away) @ New York Knicks (6-7, 3-3 home)

Tonight, two teams in the midst of a losing streak will do battle at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks will try to prevent their streak from reaching four, while the Suns look to halt their skid at six. This will be the only meeting between the two teams this season, due to the loss of games. Phoenix and New York split the two meetings last year, with each team winning on the other’s home court.

Fundamentals
When – January 18th, 2012
Time – 7:30 PM
Where – Madison Square Garden
TV – MSG

Injury Report – New York
Baron Davis (Out) – Back

Injury Report – Phoenix
None

Offensive Rating – New York 100.1 (23rd) Phoenix – 103.3 (13th)
Defensive Rating – New York 101.5 (12th) Phoenix – 106.6 (26th)
Pace – New York – 93.8 (3rd) Phoenix – 91.1 (18th)
High PER Performer – New York – Carmelo Anthony (25.1) Phoenix – Marcin Gortat (23.8)

Probable Starters – New York
PG – Iman Shumpert
SG – Landry Fields
SF – Carmelo Anthony
PF – Amar’e Stoudemire
C – Tyson Chandler

Probable Starters – Phoenix
PG – Steve Nash
SG – Jared Dudley
SF – Grant Hill
PF – Channing Frye
C – Marcin Gortat

Keep an Eye On

1. The Creative Canadian – Steve Nash just keeps getting it done, and is averaging a double double for the season so far. Nash is the absolute master of the pick and roll, whether he makes a pinpoint pass to the roll man, finds an open teammate, or knocks down a jumper. The Suns average 0.99 PPP (Points Per Possession) when Nash is the ball handler in the pick and roll, according to mySynergySports. Phoenix still relies heavily on Nash’s 37-year-old legs to do the majority of playmaking. His assist percentage is an astouding 58.1%. the Knicks highest player in that category? Carmelo Anthony, at 28.3%.

2. Zone D – I have tuned in briefly to a few of Phoenix’s games, and they will move to a zone defense during particular stretches. I’m sure I don’t need to remind a single soul about how the Knicks responded to Orlando’s zone defense late in Monday’s loss. Stan Van Gundy switched to the zone at the perfect time, and the Knicks will need to be prepared for the potential of Head Coach Alvin Gentry showing the same look.

3. ‘Melo Point Forward – Do what you will with this statistic, but Carmelo Anthony leads the league in PPP when he is the ball handler in the P&R (1.2). However, the Knicks are only utilizing him in that situation 15.5% of the time, compare that to the 31.6% in isolation scenarios.

4. ‘Melo Milestone – ‘Melo is within six points of reaching the 15,000 point plateau.

2012 Game Preview – Knicks @ Thunder

The Knicks will look to get back on track as they finish a mini two game road trip with the high flying Oklahoma City Thunder. This will be the only meeting between the two teams due to the condensed schedule. They split the season series last year, with each team protecting their home court.

The Lowdown – Oklahoma City is currently riding a five game winning streak, increasing their record to a staggering 10-2 and sit atop the Western Conference. It will be the Thunder’s first contest since Wednesday night. They are led by silky smooth Kevin Durant, who already owns two scoring titles at the age of 23. The 6’9 sharp shooter embodies a 53.9 eFG%. Durant worked on improving his post up skills in the offseason, broadening his already potent offensive game.

Russell Westbrook is a creator, a facilitator, and a penetrator. Westbrook is a freak athlete with lightning quick speed.

The depth of the Thunder allows the head coach Scott Brooks the luxury of playing a 9-10 man rotation. Oklahoma City has two elite talents in the starting lineup, and sixth man of the year candidate James Harden with his 63.4 TS% waiting in the wings. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins anchor the defense. The two provide physical post defense and the knack for blocking or altering shots at the rim.

The Knicks come off what some would argue is their worst performance of the season against the Memphis Grizzlies, which saw their record drop to 6-5. They lost Carmelo Anthony early in the 3rd quarter due to his second injury of the night. ‘Melo is a one man MASH unit with a sprained left wrist and a sprained right ankle. He did not practice yesterday and is listed as day-to-day for the Thunder game. If he is unable to play, the Knicks confirmed Bill Walker will start in his place. The Thunder frequently set off ball screens to try and free Durant, as well as attempting create opportunities for their players at the rim. The Knick defenders will need to be fully aware of their counterparts’ location, as OKC will make them pay for nearly every ball watching lapse.

Matchup to Watch – Iman Shumpert vs. Russell Westbrook I’m beyond ecstatic to watch these two go at it. Both endure similar attributes with speed and athleticism. Shump will look to play a better floor game, as he admitted via twitter that his last game wasn’t his best display against the Grizzlies.

X-Factor – Amar’e Stoudemire Chances are there will be no Carmelo Anthony, so it is back to the pre-Melo mindset for Amar’e. He will have free reign to do as he pleases without worrying about Anthony holding the ball. Stoudemire will need to carry the offensive load. We will all get a look at how this offense flows without Melo for an entire game.

Probable Starters (Thunder)
PG – Russell Westbrook
SG – Thabo Sefolosha
SF – Kevin Durant
PF – Serge Ibaka
C – Kendrick Perkins

Probable Starters (Knicks)
PG – Iman Shumpert
SG – Landry Fields
SF – Bill Walker
PF – Amar’e Stoudemire
C – Tyson Chandler

2012 Game Preview – Knicks @ Grizzlies

After picking up a huge, although ugly win over the Philadelphia 76ers. The Knicks hit the road to challenge the struggling Memphis Grizzlies. With the shortened schedule, this will be the only matchup between the two this year. New York was victorious in both meetings last season. The Knicks are winners of four in a row, meanwhile the Grizzlies are on the other side of the spectrum, losers of three straight.

The Lowdown – The Knicks are the superior team in this contest. Especially with former Knick, Zach Randolph out 6-8 weeks with a slightly torn MCL. The Grizzlies are by no means an offensive juggernaut. Rudy Gay is their high scorer but only obtains a 44.8 TS%. With an offensive rating of 97.9, Memphis ranks near the basement in that category (27th). The Knicks have bombarded teams this season with surprisingly good defense, leading to a top ten placement in defensive rating (7th). With the continuation of sound defense, I see no alternative outcome but a Knicks victory.

Key Matchup – Carmelo Anthony vs. Rudy Gay – This is the key matchup based on the fact Big Z is not battling Amar’e. Carmelo has been a Rudy killer over his career, with a TS% of 56.9% and averaging 27.1 in fourteen games. Gay, who was missing in action for both games last season due to injury issues, is a solid scorer and can get his shot off easily. On defense, Rudy’s length will bother Anthony, but he lacks the strength to deal with ‘Melo on the interior. Gay can stop penetration and prevent open looks, but is an average post defender. He will need help down low handling, so perhaps ‘Melo can go a whole game without suffering from spontaneous tunnel vision.

X-Factor – Tyson Chandler – Marc Gasol creates a matchup problem since he is deceptively strong, and has soft touch from outside the painted area. Marc Gasol has the vertical leap of a potato, and will have a tough time keeping Chandler off the glass due to Tyson’s athleticism. However, Gasol’s versatility to set up outside of the key makes him a perfect candidate for the pick and roll. His knowledge of when to roll out or cut to the basket make him and Conley a strong duo. Chandler will have his hands full again tonight defending and communicating effectively. Another factor could simply be the intensity Chandler brings. Since the Knicks have a maddening tendency to play up and down to their competition. I look for Chandler to establish some ferocity early to get the teammates to play with more energy. Tonight’s game may be one the Knicks should win, but they will need effort to get it done.

Projected Starters (Grizzlies)
PG – Mike Conley
SG – Tony Allen
SF – Rudy Gay
PF – Marreese Speights
C – Marc Gasol

Projected Starters (Knicks)
PG – Iman Shumpert
SG – Landry Fields
SF – Carmelo Anthony
PF – Amar’e Stoudemire
C – Tyson Chandler

Melo over Allen for the

2012 Game Preview – 76ers @ Knicks

After three straight victories, the Knicks look to continue their winning ways against the Atlantic Division leading Philadelphia 76ers. With the season shortened to 66 games, these division matchups become even more pivotal. The two teams split the regular season series last year 2-2 with the Knicks coming away with the final two meetings.

The Lowdown – The Knicks may have caught a bit of a break in this game. The 76ers are playing their last game in a back-to-back-to-back series. The Knicks will begin a three games in four nights stint. The Knicks have won three in a row, and are giving up only 87.7 points per game during that stretch. In fact the team currently has a defensive rating of 102.0, good enough to place them in the top half of the league (14th). The 76ers are winners of their last six, and with a win over the Knicks they will have their longest win streak since Jan 6-17, 2009.

The Sixers have five guys averaging over double figures points per game in Lou Williams, Jrue Holliday, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, and Spencer Hawes. They rank 1st in SRS (Simple Rating System) which takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule. In the same category, the Knicks rank 23rd. The Sixers also rank 1st in defensive rating and 3rd in offensive rating. They win with their balance and depth on offense, as well as their ferocity on defense.

Key Matchup – Carmelo Anthony vs. Andre Iguodala – In Melo’s career he has averaged 26.4 points per game while shooting 54.7% ts% against Iguodala. Iggy is a strong defender with quick hands and respectable lateral movement. I would love to see Melo play more bully ball and not settle for jumpers. He outweighs Iggy by 23 pounds and a double team should be administered immediately by Doug Collins every time Melo catches it down low. Such a double team should improve Anthony’s ability to find his teammates for easy scores. Melo’s assist percentage this year is 27.5%, which leads the team. I’ve been impressed with his willingness to hit the open man this year instead of forcing shots.

X-Factor – Tyson Chandler. Chandler’s offensive rating is 152 and defensive rating is 99, both team highs. He’s the biggest reason why the Knicks are 14th in defensive rating as a whole. Defending the rim is key, as teams will look to attack the defensive ineptitude of Melo and Stoudemire. The Sixers run the pick and roll often, featuring versatile big men rolling off the pick. Chandler will have to communicate effectively for the Knicks to cover the P & R.

This is an early season statement game, the Knicks have to come out with an overload of fire and desire on both ends of the floor. I had to throw some sort of Clydeism somewhere!