Middle Kingdom Previews: Pistons, Thunder


Melo may or may not play, but the show will go on

So...the Knicks are playing...umm...well? Not well? Both?

The upcoming schedule presents them with more of what they faced in the last two games - a back-to-back featuring a home game they probably shouldn't win and a road game they probably should win. Will the Knicks continue their schizophrenic ways, or can they put together four halves of quality basketball?

To the previews!

Wed., March 6 - @Detroit Pistons

Chinese name: 活塞 (huo-sai) Lit. "moving plunger"

This game seems oddly important, doesn't it? This is the most winnable road game the Knicks will play in a looong time: check the schedule:

61 Mon, Mar 11, 2013 @ Golden State Warriors
62 Wed, Mar 13, 2013 @ Denver Nuggets
63 Thu, Mar 14, 2013 @ Portland Trail Blazers
64 Sun, Mar 17, 2013 @ Los Angeles Clippers
65 Mon, Mar 18, 2013 @ Utah Jazz

67 Fri, Mar 22, 2013 @ Toronto Raptors

69 Tue, Mar 26, 2013 @ Boston Celtics

73 Tue, Apr 2, 2013 @ Miami Heat
74 Wed, Apr 3, 2013 @ Atlanta Hawks

76 Sun, Apr 7, 2013 @ Oklahoma City Thunder

78 Thu, Apr 11, 2013 @ Chicago Bulls

The easiest road game in the next five weeks is probably Toronto - the same Toronto team that has already beaten the Knicks twice. Upper echelon teams win on the road - the Knicks are 15-12 away from the Garden, and if they manage to stay above .500 after this stretch, even the most hardened Knick critic should be impressed.

Carmelo Anthony probably won't play. Fortunately, the Pistons will be without Andre Drummond, who hasn't played since early February, since he suffered a broken heart upon hearing Pablo Prigioni would not be playing with him in the Rookie-Sophomore game.

Still, the Knicks shouldn't sleep on the Pistons. Greg Monroe can hold his own down low, and Jose Calderon always seems to play well against the Knicks.

Those players aside, the Piston who scares me the most in this game is Kyle Singler. I see a lot of Mike Dunleavy in Singler, which worries me to no end. Now, you might consider my Dunleavy-Singler comparisons to be racism; personally, I think of it as anti-Dukism, which isn't quite the same as racism, since Duke occasionally allows non-whites to play for their team.

Kyle Singler can ball, people. I like his game, and I hate him even more for making me like him. This guy will kill the Knicks eventually - so it is written, so it shall be done. Let's just hope doesn't happen tonight.

Thurs., March 7 - Oklahoma City Thunder

Chinese name: 雷霆 (lei-ting) Lit. "thunderbolt"

Does anyone else think that "Thunderbolts" is a better name than plain old "Thunder"? I dunno..maybe I just have an irrational distaste for team names that don't end in "s".

One Night Only: the Fightin' Brewers play the Garden! Ronnie has played two games with the Thunder thus far. His second game was a fairly Brewer-esque outing - six minutes, zero points on zero attempts. But his first game chilled me to the depths of my very soul - five whole points on 2-of-4 from the field. He even made a three-pointer...where the hell do you get off making a three-pointer, Ronnie? To put that in perspective: Ronnie made one three in his last 12 games with the Knicks.

Believer it or not, however, Ronnie Brewer might not be the Knicks' biggest concern in this game. They also have this kid named Durant, who has gotten some recent pub. Last I heard of the guy, he was being passed over for the number one overall pick because he couldn't do any bench presses. I wonder how's he's been playing this year:

1 Kevin Durant 60 38.8 9.2 18.1 .507 1.9 4.4 .421 8.4 9.2 .906 7.9 4.6 28.6
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/6/2013.

That's all well and good...but what can you bench, pansy? [flexes in front of the mirror]

Much has been made of Durant's shooting line this season - .500/.400/.900. It's a pretty exclusive club:

Totals Shooting
Rk Player Season Age Tm G MP FG FGA 3P 3PA FT FTA PTS FG% 3P% FT% WS/48
1 Kevin Durant 2012-13 24 OKC 60 2325 550 1084 112 266 502 554 1714 .507 .421 .906 .299
2 Dirk Nowitzki 2006-07 28 DAL 78 2820 673 1341 72 173 498 551 1916 .502 .416 .904 .278
3 Larry Bird* 1986-87 30 BOS 74 3005 786 1497 90 225 414 455 2076 .525 .400 .910 .243
4 Larry Bird* 1987-88 31 BOS 76 2965 881 1672 98 237 415 453 2275 .527 .414 .916 .243
5 Reggie Miller* 1993-94 28 IND 79 2638 524 1042 123 292 403 444 1574 .503 .421 .908 .212
6 Steve Nash 2005-06 31 PHO 79 2796 541 1056 150 342 257 279 1489 .512 .439 .921 .212
7 Steve Kerr 1995-96 30 CHI 82 1919 244 482 122 237 78 84 688 .506 .515 .929 .208
8 Mark Price 1988-89 24 CLE 75 2728 529 1006 93 211 263 292 1414 .526 .441 .901 .199
9 Jose Calderon 2007-08 26 TOR 82 2484 367 707 79 184 109 120 922 .519 .429 .908 .197
10 Steve Nash 2007-08 33 PHO 81 2780 485 962 179 381 222 245 1371 .504 .470 .906 .181
11 Steve Nash 2009-10 35 PHO 81 2660 499 985 124 291 211 225 1333 .507 .426 .938 .178
12 Steve Nash 2008-09 34 PHO 74 2484 428 851 108 246 196 210 1160 .503 .439 .933 .140
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/6/2013.

A couple of things jump out at me here:

  1. I'm suddenly a whole lot more worried about Jose Calderon in tonight's Pistons game.
  2. Reggie Miller is a punk-ass bitch.
  3. The Dirk-Durant comparison seems fitting. At age 24, Kevin Durant is pretty much Dirk Nowitzki in his prime...but three or four times more athletic.

So the Knicks have that to contend with. Oh, and don't forget Russell Westbrook, who I'm sure noticed all the press Stephen Curry received for his 54-point game at the Garden and is probably itching to get some of that attention. Oh, and don't forget Serge Ibaka, cashing in on all that promise and athleticism this season. Oh, and don't forget about Kevin Martin, one of the best bench scorers in the league. Oh, and don't forget reserve guard Reggie Jackson, who once hit three home runs off three different pitchers in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series...pretty impressive for a kid who was born in 1990.

How can the Knicks compete in this game? First, they need Carmelo Anthony back, and healthy. Say what you want about Melo, the guy usually gets up for these kinds of match-ups. A duel with Durant might be just what the doctor ordered - Doctor Alliteration, that is - to get Melo out of his recent slump. (That said, I hope he doesn't rush back if he isn't 100% healthy. This is a game that will draw a lot of attention, but it isn't that important in the grand scheme of things.)

The Thunder aren't quite perfect - they do have one weakness the Knicks are primed to exploit. The Thunder have a problem with turnovers (28th in TOV%), which happens to be one of the Knicks' prime areas of strength. Winning the turnover battle will be crucial if the Knicks are to have any chance in this game. Also, it might help if they can hold Durant and Westbrook to somewhere under 70 points.

Let's go Knicks!

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