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Game Preview: Knicks vs. Wizards, 12/23/2019

Black to back.

Still feels warm in here. Did we miss anything? Didn’t think so. The Knicks (7-23) face the Wizards (8-20) tonight at the Garden. New York is coming off of two jarring losses to a pair of teams atop the Eastern Conference. They had their moments but when the chips are down, the Bucks and Heat have reliable team identities and the top-down structure. The 2019-20 Knicks have not established just who the hell they are or what it is they do best to make themselves competitive.

We know what they are when they’re at their worst... we hope. Essentially another isolation-heavy team that struggles to hold it together on defense. Washington has aligned everything behind Bradley Beal and he has turned them into a real live wire with the second-highest pace in the league and the fourth-best offensive rating; as opposed to the Knicks who are 26th and 29th, respectively. Both teams do stink on the defensive side of the ball, so they’ll have that in common. New York is 27th while Washington is dead last. Perhaps therein lies the path to victory. Just gotta slow down Beal.

Projected Starters

The Knicks are probably still rolling without Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock. The interesting thing to look for is whether Frank Ntilikina is officially being bounced to third in the point guard rotation. The Wizards’ situation, meanwhile, is very different.

A flood of injuries have overtaken the Wizards, starting with John Wall, who tore his Achilles last year. Earlier this month, CJ Miles had a season ending wrist surgery on his shooting hand to repair ligament damage. Rookie Rui Hachimura has a little groin issue and will miss the rest of Washington’s road trip. The white hot shooting from Davis Bertans — best Latvian-born player in the NBA — will be sorely missed, as he is out with a quad injury. Mo Wagner, Jordan McCrae and Thomas Bryant will also be out of the lineup with various maladies.

Now the latest casualty is Isaiah Thomas, who has been suspended two games for confronting a rude Philly fan who wanted a shitty chocolate ice cream more than he wanted to conduct himself with class. I don’t respect it. Here’s what Isaiah had to say after the game.

I have to admit the, just wanted a frosty part made me laugh. Not because of what Isaiah took on, but for how pathetic this fan’s thirst for a free little dessert was. Hopefully Isaiah sees the humor in it — if not now, soon. The guy will remain an ass wipe, I’m just saying. So what are these Wizards gonna do, down so many guys?

So there’s that, possibly. They also might have to see if Admiral Schofield can figure it out between now and game time. I’m gonna guess that he will remain the kind of guy that looks like he’ll body you, but he’s just a big boat of a guy who will happily float on by and wave at you. That’s always a fun game for the kids.

Keys & Matchups

Maybe this will be the Bradley Beal show waltzing down Broadway and burning the nets down. That will definitely come true if Frank Ntilikina is screwed to the bench. The Knicks would be wise to blitz Beal and get the ball out of his hands when they can.

So I ask you: are you really, truly ready for the Garrison Matthews show? I know I am. The scrappy Lipscomb Bison is surely gonna speed through the flagrantly neon green light he’s about to have and let it fly. The Knicks have a tendency to lose track of this kind of guy, little corner hustler that will spread it and spray it if they don’t get out to him. Then they’ll finally agree that the kid can shoot but they’ll relax and he’ll be back cutting for easy flipped and twisty lay ins.

Ultimately too many absences for the Wizards will undo them. Julius Randle won’t have to deal with a guy he could learn a thing or ten from in Thomas Bryant. This is the game Julius has been waiting for. The Knicks finally could use a battering ram that softens up the interior. Washington’s pace will stay high and the Knicks will fall into it and will play on instinct a little more than they usually do. This will work to great effect for New York, but the Wizards will be sucking exhaust behind a Knicks city bus.

Knicks by 13.

Warm Up Music

Been adding up the numbers lately. And well, it’s pretty obvious to me, the time will come...