The New York Knicks, a basketball team of some repute, will play yet another back-to-back starting on Tuesday evening as they begin a brutal four-games-in-five-nights stretch. Can they continue their surprisingly hot start to the season? To the preview-mobile!
Tues., Nov. 4 -- Washington Wizards
Chinese name: 奇才 (qi-cai) Lit. "rare talent"
The Knicks have a chance to go two games above .500 for the first time in two years -- all they have to do is defeat John Wall and the Washington Wizards.
That task proved utterly impossible last season, as the Knicks dropped all three contests to the Wiz -- each loss coming by fewer than 10 points. No team brought out New York's late-game incompetence quite like this club, particularly Bradley Beal.
There are several pieces of good news on that front. Beal is out with an injury, and notorious clutch succubus Beno Udrih can no longer hurt them with his black magic (#BlameBeno4eva). Most importantly, the Knicks seem to have found a fresh young face with a penchant for hitting big shots. Observe:
Someone sign this kid long-term!
Clutch Melo returned just in time, because the Knicks will be facing Paul Pierce, a.k.a. the Antichrist. The matchup I'm looking for in this game is Pierce vs. Quincy Acy -- more specifically, Pierce's smug turtle face vs. Acy's elbows.
Acy has been a pleasant surprise this season. His numbers aren't great, but the team is playing well with him on the court, and he has made some important contributions. But Quincy, I need you to forget all of that stuff Tuesday night. I need you to tie up Paul Pierce...literally, tie him up in a burlap sack and toss him down an old well. Let's find the nearest well on Google Maps:
Dammit why are all the wells located in India!!! Listen, P&Ters, Quincy Acy need your help locating a well in the Tri-State Area. It could mean the difference between victory and defeat.
Wed., Nov. 5 -- @Detroit Pistons
Chinese name: 活塞 (huo-sai) Lit. "moving plunger"
In theory, this should be a good matchup for the Knicks. The Pistons no longer have Rodney Stuckey, who was a bit of a secret Knick-killer, averaging 18.5 points per game against New York in 2013-14. New York's egalitarian, foul-happy big man collective should be able to send notoriously poor free-throw shooter Andre Drummond to the line every time he touches the ball. And while I'm not exactly thrilled with the Knicks' propensity to take way too many mid-range jumpers, that might actually be a good strategy against Drummond and Josh Smith. Every time Amar'e Stoudemire and Jason Smith can an 18-footer, they should find J-Smoove and whisper in his ear: "Shooting jumpers feels so gooood. You gotta try it."
Speaking of the frontcourt duo of STAT and the other Mr. Smith, many observers expected one of those two to be fairly stout defensively, with the other guy bumbling around on that end as a virtual defensive sieve. Through three games, that prediction has proven to be kinda, sorta accurate...only with the roles completely reversed.
That's right, people -- Amar'e Stoudemire has been a pretty good defender this season. And I don't mean "good for Amar'e," I mean good, period. If anyone has been the weak link in New York's frontcourt defense, it has been Smith.
Check out the defensive on/off numbers for Knicks big men over the first three games (remember, lower D-Rtg numbers and negative net ratings are good):
|MP||D-Rtg (on)||D-Rtg (off)||Net D-Rtg|
Yes, it's only been three games, but let's give credit where credit is due. The Knicks are giving up fewer points with Amar'e Stoudemire on the court. I certainly hope that trend continues.