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Game Preview: Knicks @ Kings, 1/22/2021

Best not miss.

Cincinnati Royals v New York Knicks

Hot off a run away win against the Warriors where the Knicks held Steph Curry as in check as you really can, New York shoots down to Sacramento to get right back at it. The Kings have been scoring the ball with ease but so have their opponents, allowing a league worst 123 points per game. Sacramento gets routinely cut up allowing the third most assists against in the league at just over 27. They also get block 5.3 times a game and give up 8.3 steals. Live ball turnovers could help the Knicks get out in transition for some easy ones if they bring the requisite effort and energy.

Last night Elfrid Payton did a great job with the master craftsmanship of Curry, but staying up to speed with De’Aaron Fox will be a wholly different matter. In the second game in as many nights, tired legs may just hit different.

Projected Starters

Alright let’s be honest with ourselves here. As much as we fall head over heels in love with the potentials of the young guards that float through the city. Frank Ntilikina and current crush, Immanuel Quickley, have done enough to get their names on the poster, but not the marquee. Elfrid Payton is my second-least favorite player on the team (goodbye, Dennis Smith Jr.) but he has enough good games and pays just enough attention on defense to keep the starting job. Maybe gears will shift as time goes on but it certainly feels like the level this team is currently at isn’t being held up by Payton. I want to see more Manny Man. I want Frank healthy and I want Payton as an absolutely capable back up. It is still on one or both of those guys to prove that they unequivocally deserve it for a pragmatic coach like Thibodeau to simply hand them the keys.

Elfrid Payton v De’Aaron Fox
Reggie Bullock v Buddy Hield
RJ Barrett v Harrison Barnes
Julius Randle v Marvin Bagley
Mitchell Robinson v Richaun Holmes

One thing that I could see happening sooner than later is swapping Reggie Bullock out for Alec Burks. Thibs clearly was taking a long look at the starters with Burks at the close of last night’s game. Although Bullock has pulled his cold shooting up to respectable shooting, currently .353% from deep on nearly five a game, he just doesn’t have as much creation when that catch and shoot is taken away. He has developed a nice little two-man pitch and fire action with Julius Randle. Careening off Randle’s shoulder, ready to pull, but it often moves so fast that Bullock is forced to dip into 16-footer territory, where he is shooting an untoward 33%. It looks awkward, it clangs offward.

That mid range pull up is where Burks actually shows a lot of chops. Small sample size of it all, he is hitting over 60% on middies. That high is unlikely to sustain, but for a team looking to fill in some margins in the scoring department, they might be able to make some hay there. Burks has also shot better from the corners and above the break, but again, maybe he goes cold as he shoots off some of the rust, and it balances out. Just saying it’s something to keep an eye on because it looks like the coach is getting eyes on it!

New York Knicks v Kansas City Kings Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Keys & Predictions

New York will have to battle fresher legs. The Kings last played (and lost to) the Clippers on Wednesday, notching their second-lowest point total of the year. No doubt that has been a thorn in their throne for a couple days. It will be nice to get a look at possible Rookie of the Year candidate, Tyrese Haliburton. You hear so much about how he is just the best and in his ideal role. Be that as it may, Haliburton is a skinny kid and the Knicks have been bullying people like him all year.

Julius Randle, and his All Star caliber self, has struggled with the bouncier athletic front lines, but maybe he can get Bagley in the air a little too much and parade on down to the foul line.

Knicks by -9

Kansas City Kings v New York Knicks Photo by Richard Pilling/NBAE via Getty Images

Parting Image

I’ve been really enjoying going deep into the archives to look at these beautiful old photos. From the sixties, seventies, eighties and even the officially vintage nineties! If it’s 20 or more years old, that, my friend, is vintage. This is probably better than inundating people with music you think sucks! At least we all agree that Knicks/basketball is awesome.

Jimmy Walker Photo by NBA Photo Library/NBAE via Getty Images

See ya in the game thread!